Bombay Beach Movie Review

This startling documentary explores a part of America few even want to admit exists: a place designed as a paradise that has instead become an almost apocalyptic wasteland populated by people who have fallen out of society.

Bombay Beach is a community on the edge of the Salton Sea, just a two-hour drive from Los Angeles. But instead of a seaside holiday destination, it's now a collection of falling-down buildings and misfit residents living in the parched desert on the edge of a saltwater lake that's surrounded by dead fish.

Instead of approaching this journalistically, filmmaker Har'el explores the lives of three residents through beautifully shot and edited fly-on-the-wall footage.

Benny is the hyperactive 10-year-old of Mike and Pamela, who have a history of imprisonment on weapons charges. Even though they keep Benny on a variety of intense prescription medications, he's a lively kid who struggles to focus at school and dreams of being a firefighter. Red is long past retirement, enjoying his redneck, chain-smoking, drop-out life in Slab City, where old RVs and caravans go to die. But his severe health issues threaten to change all of this. And CeeJay is a teen football player who moved from South Central L.A. to get away from the violence and improve his chances at being spotted by an NFL scout.

With a Herzogian affection for society's outcasts, Har'el continually finds the most positive, everyday aspects of these people's lives. Benny's playful curiosity and warm family life makes up for what will clearly be a very difficult road ahead. Red's wry humour and salty friends make his waning years enjoyable. And CeeJay finds real hope in this desolate place, as well as the girlfriend he steals from a swaggering jerk.

The film is shot and edited with a sense of artistry that continually catches us off guard, mixing the surreal beauty of the landscape with nasty realism.

Plus a gorgeous musical score that includes a couple of plaintive Bob Dylan songs. This is a side of America that we rarely see on screen: these aren't working class poor, they're completely off the grid. And while the film probably would have been more powerful if it focussed solely on Red's or CeeJay's story, the portrait it paints of life at the end of the world is hauntingly important.

Cast & Crew

Director : Alma Har'el

Producer : Alma Har'el,

Starring : Benny Parrish, CeeJay Thompson, Dorran "Red" Forgy, Mike Parrish, Pamela Parrish, Michael Parrish Jr


Comments

Bombay Beach Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: 15, 2012

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