Brooklyn wokel meets Texas yokel in VENGEANCE, a cultural bake-off that hinges on the narrow premise of a savvy New Yorker getting pulled into the mysterious postmortem of Abilene Shaw (Lio Tipton), a young lady he claims he barely knew. (He only ‘serial-dated’ her. But she seems to have fallen hard.) Traveling to the dusty flat pancake called West Texas for her funeral, Ben Manalowitz (B.J. Novak, who also wrote and directed) finds himself in the passenger seat of her gun-totin’ brother’s pick-up truck. Soon, Ben is eating fried Twinkies with her kooky family and meeting a cult-figure, Quinten Sellers (a terrific, if a tad over-the-top Ashton Kutcher), who wears designer cowboy duds and deals drugs.
It’s creepy, funny, well written and surprisingly deep. No one in this movie is who he or she appears to be. The filmmaker seems to suggest this lies at the heart of why our society is so very woebegone — or that it’s the symptom of a deeper problem. I admire him for taking on these tough issues … not enough American filmmakers are … and giving us a laff … at least until reality strikes again.
Recommended. In theaters next week.
Dance critic Debra Levine is founder/editor/publisher of arts●meme.