Milwaukee, Minnesota

Reviewed By Carina Hoskisson
Posted 01/25/03 00:41:59

"Sean Penn wishes he could be Troy Garity"
5 stars (Awesome)

SCREENED AT THE 2003 SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL :: ATTN DISTRIBUTOR: Pick this movie up and take it to the masses. Milwaukee, Minnesota deserves to be seen and loved by millions. The quality is outstanding, the performances are stunning and the story will leave you completely submerged in Albert's world. Milwaukee, Minnesota is why I love independent film...

Albert Burroughs (Troy Garity), a mentally disabled young adult, lives a quiet life in the gritty gray cold of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His mother (an excellent Debra Monk) is uncomfortable with his increasing independence and especially his job in a small shop. Her overbearing nature allows Albert to function in a warm protective bubble, albeit a stifling one. Albert earns a good living on the side as a gifted ice fisherman in tournaments that dot the Northern Midwest. After a hit and run leaves Albert without the mother he so depends on, he must learn to navigate the world on his own. Immediately he is the target of two separate con artists who wish to separate Albert from his substantial money.

Director Allan Mindel stated that he wrote the role of con artist Tuey Stiles for Alison Folland after seeing her performance in To Die For. Her early promise is fulfilled in this picture and left me even wanting more. Folland’s performance is the herald of superlative things to come. As despicable as her character’s actions are, the audience can sympathize with Tuey and her machinations. Tuey’s 1985 Madonna-like clothes and hard makeup all underline the cruel nature she wishes she projected. Instead, you can immediately sense her vulnerabilities and the secrets she carries inside. Tuey and her hypochondriac brother Stan (played by a marvelous Hank Harris) are determined to take advantage of Albert, even getting themselves in way over their heads.
Jerry James (Randy Quaid) a traveling salesman who looks and acts like Burt Reynolds is the second con artist after Albert’s possible stash. Jerry James is greasy and drives a late, late model Impala. In short, Randy Quaid is perfect for the role and stretches as an actor to fill James’s stained hush puppies. Bruce Dern is almost unrecognizable as Sean McNally, the owner of the shop where Albert works. Holly Woodlawn and Josh Brolin round out the cast—Brolin’s portrayal of Gary will raise more then a few eyebrows.

Albert is so interesting and multi-dimensional. You genuinely care about his welfare and yearn to protect this quiet man. Ultimately this is Albert's world, colored by the ice fishing shacks, modest homes and the deep brown gray of a Wisconsin winter. Troy Garity shouldn’t get a prize because he played someone mentally challenged. Troy should win acclaim for this film because he is good. By good I mean amazingly, gut wrenching, terrifyingly good. This isn’t a movie by another actor trying to show off his skills at playing someone retarded, it’s an organic performance that illuminates an already engrossing picture. This kid is going to win an Oscar someday and I said it first.

Most pictures about the mentally disabled call themselves “important” and “conscious raising.” They all wish they could be this movie. Milwaukee, Minnesota is not about an agenda. The fact that the main character is mentally disabled and goes through some challenges isn’t what the movie is about. This film is about people who really exist, I am convinced of that.
There is no doubt that Milwaukee, Minnesota is a labor of love for all who were involved. The film bears the tender fingerprints of a director and his crew who understood the unique and quiet tale they were creating. The symbolism of ice fishing and the oppressive cold are juxtaposed with the warm green-gold light that bathes the film. Allan Mindel said that they went through more then 25 rewrites on the script...

The result is a sweet, frightening and ultimately fascinating tale that raises the appropriate empathetic emotions from its audience instead of forced and trite manipulation. Start pounding the drums, we've got to get Milwaukee, Minnesota in front of the audiences it deserves.

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