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Jackpot (2001)USA 2001
Directed by Michael Polish
Running time 101 minutes
If David Lynch had directed Tender Mercies appears to be what the Polish brothers had in mind in this failed attempt to be cultishly hip.
A couple of losers - Sunny (Jon Gries) a 'disco cowboy' and Lester (Garrett Morris) his manager - travel across America in a hot pink Chrysler, competing in karaoke contests as a way of breaking into the world of MOR pop music (for anyone interested this sub-culture it is portrayed in Duets, 2000). The story is told in flashback with Daryl Hannah as Sunny's wife justifiedly upbraiding him for leaving her and their child to go on this cretinous escapade.
Many people who attempt black comedy fail to appreciate the importance of the word 'comedy' in the equation - this movie is a good example of it. Coming up with an offbeat story is only the beginning. It then has to be well-written and played. Jackpot has got the story and the look (the film was photographed with a Sony Cine Alta digital video camera by M. David Mullen), but despite the occasional amusing scene, never sparks into life.
Gries, looking like a kind of older balding Brad Pitt, does not have the necessary charisma to carry the lead role (20 years ago it would have been played by Harry Dean Stanton, probably to no better effect), which, as written by Michael Polish, becomes less a character we might empathize with in his pathos than one who is thoroughly unlikeable in his selfishness and as a result the film comes across as less a celebration of human frailty than a mean-spirited attempt to be clever. Both Gries and Morris have lesser roles in the Polish brothers first and even more Lynchian film, Twin Falls Idaho.