By Don Simpson | February 20, 2013
Director: Cory Van Dyke
Writer: Cory Van Dyke
Starring: Johnny Sneed, Jesse Bernstein, Ty Mitchell, Julie Mintz, Jolyn Janis, Will Nelson, Jon Coleman, Jennie Lyn Hamilton, David Beebe, Alice Stevens, Susannah Lipsey, David Garcia, J.D. DiFabbio, J.D. Garcia, Steve Holzer, Mark Scott
Carter (Johnny Sneed) is an aspiring music producer who is struggling to establish a career in Marfa, Texas. Well, “struggling” might be too strong of a word to describe Carter — it is more like he is waiting for his career to establish itself. For now, at least he has beer…
On one fateful and dreadfully hungover morning, Carter finds himself in need of a ride home from a party. Enter Steve (Steve Holzer). The proverbial black dog is already at Steve’s door, so he is ready to pass along a large painting to someone else…and that lucky someone turns out to be Carter. When Steve turns up dead moments later, Carter becomes the one and only suspect. As part of their investigation, the local police want to see the painting that Steve purportedly gifted to Carter. As luck would have it, that painting has gone missing. It seems Carter’s ex-girlfriend (Julie Mintz) may have accidentally moved the painting to her new boyfriend’s house; that boyfriend being a cocky musician, Davíd (Jesse Bernstein), whose credits include playing on Bon Jovi’s sugar-coated, country metal “Nashville record.” Along with the painting, a mysterious backpack that seems to be of considerable value to Camacho (David Beebe) also disappears. Needless to say, this whole string of events really muddies up Carter’s already murky existential quagmire.
Faced with “a challenge from the joker, man,” Carter finds himself left with two options: go “onward into the breach” or just give up. Carter enlists his newfound friend — who could possibly be relocating from the northwest — Quarry (Jolyn Janis) to become his “Watson” and accompany him on his quest to solve the many mysteries of his life; all the while, Quarry must also be Carter’s rock (pun intended) and help drag him out of breakdown town.
Oblique clues play like Oblique Strategies, sending Carter along on a surrealist string of events tied together by random coincidences and blind fate. Its sort of like Slacker-meets-The Long Goodbye in a small world surrounded by the sprawling landscapes of West Texas and populated with artists, musicians and bohemian philosophers — in other words, Marfa, Texas.
The Marfa that writer-director Cory Van Dyke presents us with is a place riddled with class struggles. Greedy art dealers and douchebag musicians represent the elite class, while slackers struggle to find their footing. It is a beautiful place (lensed magnificently by Iskra Valtcheva) that attracts a lot of fancy-pants people, but that only makes the Sisyphean struggle all the more hellish for the have-nots of the town. Far Marfa serves as a mantra for the have-nots of Marfa (and elsewhere): “live now, work hard (preferably with your hands) and face life.” That’s not such bad advice, if I say so myself.