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in Sundance
on Jan 27, 2008

Any festival you go to there’s going to be one film that most people don’t get and just spend their time discussing why they didn’t like it and question why it was ever made. Chusy (Anthony Haney-Jardine)‘s Anywhere, USA has become that film at Sundance ’08… but I’m in the minority. I thought it was one of the most fun viewing experiences I had there. Now, I won’t say that I got what Chusy’s three-part so-called autobiography was about because I don’t know if there’s anything to get. All I know is he has a bizarre imagination, gets great performances from amateur or non-actors and the man loves mustaches.

Guided by a smooth talking narrator, we enter Chusy’s America with stunning shots of empty rooms that will shortly be inhabited with strange characters. Chapter one is PENANCE, here we come to a trailer park where at 2:00 in the afternoon Gene (Mike Ellis) walks into his trailer for his weekly beating by his wife, Tammy (Mary Griffin). It’s simple really, Gene overreacted and now Tammy gets to beat him with a tennis racket every Tuesday. What did he do? Well, he and his redneck R/C racing midget friend Ricky (Brian Fox) overreacted when they found a pistachio nut in between the couch cushions and came to the conclusion that Tammy was having an affair with an Arab man. Seeing the pistachio is the nut of the Middle East. What follows can only be described as plain weird. LOSS is the title of the second chapter. In it, Chusy’s daughter Perla Haney-Jardine (the only professional actor in the film) plays a seven year old girl who realizes there’s no tooth fairy and goes through a painful incident to realize there really isn’t one. Then there’s the third and final chapter: IGNORANCE. And it’s just that. At times bordering on inappropriate, without giving it away all I can say is a man (Ralph Brierley) who has reached to the heights of the financially elite, thanks in part to his well crafted beard, becomes bored one day and while chewing on a steak comes to a realization.

Many of the characters are interconnected in the stories and some of the gags find their way into the others bringing a Pulp Fiction-like quality to the film. The biggest knock on the movie though is its running time (123 min.). The viewer with extreme patients (like yours truly) is the one who will make it through, though the PENANCE story has constant laughs, the film kind of hits a roadblock at LOSS and takes a while to start up again.

But the performances, cinematography, trippy score and just the flat out strange stories are worth taking the ride. I wouldn’t be surprised if the film gains a cult following on the regional fest circuit.

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