Gummo

on October 17, 1997 by Ed Scheid
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   "Gummo" is the first directorial effort of 23-year-old Harmony Korine, who wrote the screenplay for the controversial "Kids." This film, also written by Korine, is set in Xenia, Ohio, a small town that was devastated by a tornado a few years before and still reeks of poverty and emptiness. The residents live in rundown houses with tattered furniture and high piles of unwashed clothes; cockroaches abound.
   Korine has shot "Gummo" in the straightforward style of a documentary. Grainy footage is intercut throughout, frequently giving the film a home-movie look. To maintain realism, Korine uses many nonprofessionals; he cast Nick Sutton in the leading part of Tummler after seeing him on a "Sally Jesse Raphael Show" about former troubled teenagers. "Gummo" contains many disturbing and realistic scenes of lives without values or guidance, and the young characters' obscenities add to the unsettling mood. But there's more unsettlement: To relieve their boredom, two teenage friends, Tummler and Solomon (Jacob Reynolds), kill stray cats to sell to a Chinese restaurant, and they use the money to get high from sniffing glue; a man pimps for a retarded girl; after a father loses an arm-wrestling match to his son, he demolishes the furniture in a room.
   The most bizarre scenes are of a silent boy with a sad face and wearing pink bunny ears who travels through the town. Chloe Sevigny (another "Kids" vet) designed the costumes for "Gummo" and plays a white-haired girl searching for her missing cat. One of the few adult actors in the cast is Linda Manz ("Days of Heaven") as Solomon's mother, who unexpectedly tap dances in tribute to her dead husband. Korine's screenplay for "Kids" used a suspense element to hold the film together. In contrast, the various stories in "Gummo" remain disconnected, making the film rambling and unfocused. The film also loses interest, because Korine never gets beneath the troubled surface of his characters.    Starring Jacob Reynolds, Nick Sutton, Chloe Sevigny and Linda Manz. Directed and written by Harmony Korine. Produced by Cary Woods. A Fine Line release. Drama. Rated R for pervasive depiction of anti-social behavior of juveniles, including violence, substance abuse, sexuality and language. Running time: 89 min. Screened at Telluride.
Tags: Jacob Reynolds, Nick Sutton, Chloe Sevigny, Linda Manz, Harmony Korine, Cary Woods, A Fine Line release, Drama, obscenities, kids, suspense, rambling, unfocused, teenage, boredom, travel, controversial
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