Mule Skinner Blues

"Very Good"

Mule Skinner Blues Review


Mule Skinner Blues is one of those clever ideas that rarely gets captured in a documentary form because it could so easily be taken for a fictional account, and as a feature film it would easily be tossed aside as old hat. That it is a true story, special effects aside, allows for a more intimate interaction with the charismatic trailer park community from Jacksonville, Florida.

The very mention of "documentary" often sends shivers down the spine, creating the assumption that a political lobbying group is about to shove a new charity down your throat. In contrast, Mule is a delightfully simple look at people who are working on a project together, quirks included. Also new in the documentary genre, Mule utilizes special effects to respectably compliment the various mental rollercoasters its subjects are working through.

It is a journey that portrays guerilla filmmaking at its core, as participants agree based on exchanged "sure, I'll help" grunts and handshakes. No paperwork, no trailers, no egomaniacal attitudes. Everyone is just doing their part to add to the local production, inspired by a New York film crew coming to town to shoot a music video. Those Dogma people must be jealous.

What begins as a dreary collage of depressing lives turns into an entertaining yet reflective look at divergent personalities trying to do their best, spiting their self-acknowledged flawed tendencies. Once you get past the ringleader, Beanie Andrew, repeatedly discussing the important things in life, it's easy to get swept up in his energy, his yearning to create.

Surprisingly, this is Director Stephen Earnhart's first feature length production. Having been a hired gun for 2nd unit work on various features, Earnhart brings a poignant, intelligent pacing to those he is observing. He may have used too broad of a focus, concentrating on the developments of 6 people in only 93 minutes, but the individual narratives never get boring

The affection that Mule has for its cast is so contagious that you are just as breathless to see the fruits of their labor, the short Turnaround is Fair Play as the cast and crew are. It's inspiring, with all the production stories flung around about how a film got made, to see this final achievement. It also means more to see the completed product here because production hell was true personal tragedy instead of some Hollywood director going over budget.

Mule Skinner Blues is a treat for its depiction on not giving up on dreams when you're a struggling nobody. Some of the individual storylines lean towards redundant depression, but that doesn't stop you from caring. The unusual special effects add a nice spice to the pattern of talking heads to provide consistent visual stimulation. Capturing a combined essence of artistic pursuit, human adaptability, and a claustrophobic lifestyle, Mule Skinner Blues makes for an entertaining slice of real life.

[Editor's comments: I don't mind making fun of white trash types -- honestly I don't -- but if you're going to do it, please try to be funny about it! This story -- an endless and repetitive look at Florida trailer residents who get together to make a horror movie (Turnabout is Fair Play -- something about a swamp ape musician) has all the poignancy of a Hallmark card and all the comedy of a Gallagher stand-up act. While the hysterical American Movie covers the exact same gound, Mule Skinner Blues is often boring and simply uninteresting. There's no humor in these characters, no lesson to be learned from their travails. Their just being made fun of. And not very well. [][] -CN]



Mule Skinner Blues

Facts and Figures

Run time: 93 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 13th June 2001

Distributed by: Steel Carrot Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Fresh: 18 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Himself, as Himself, as Herself, as Himself

Contactmusic


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