NextFlix: February 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia!

If you’ve ever wanted to meet the kind of man who would get a single tattoo that incorporates Elvis Presley, Charles Manson and Jesus, here’s your chance.

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia is a rowdy document of the notorious White family. A motley crew of troublemakers, drug addicts and downright violent criminals, the Whites provide an incredible amount of salacious material in the single year that the filmmaking crew followed them around. I mean “incredible” in its most literal incarnation. You will not believe the shit that these people do.

This could have been an easily exploitative adventure for the documentarians. The vast majority of the people who watch this are going to get a lot of laughs. Often, it is impossible not to laugh at their casual disregard for the law, their utter lack of decency and the county’s begrudging acceptance of their existence. When you’re not laughing, you will be gasping in WTF-level disbelief.

These laughs don’t come for free though. And this is where the documentarians earned my respect. There’s a lot of hopelessness in these peoples’ lives. Tragedies abound, many of which were highly avoidable. Life expectancy is substantially lower if you’re a White, and so they tend to live in the moment. When these moments get really bad, you’re no longer laughing. There’s a certain amount of regard that they have for their subjects. This coalesces into something fairly unique: a movie that is often uproarious but tremendously sad at the same time.

The utter embodiment of this dichotomy is a scene in which two Whites order some food at a Taco Bell drive-thru. I won’t spoil the context or the dialogue of said scene, but rest assured you will never forget it.

The White family tree has quite a few branches but director Julien Nitzberg does an excellent job of keeping the audience abreast of who’s who. Using a slick family tree graphic and frequently displaying their names, he avoids the sort of confusion that could have resulted with a less organized presentation.

jackass fans will recognize the Dickhouse rainbow logo that appears at the beginning of the film. Johnny Knoxville and Co. share producing credits and this project is a huge success for them in my opinion. I hope they use their money to finance more projects like this. The trailer is below; it does a good job of showing both sides of the movie without spoiling much. Hooray!