Winner of several film festival prizes, MILWAUKEE, MINNESOTA is a quirky drama
centered on Albert Burroughs (Troy Garity), a mentally-challenged young adult who possesses
a gift for ice fishing. Albert claims to be able to “hear” the fish under the ice. Using this gift, he
has won several local fishing tournaments and earned a nice nest egg. Of course, he’s something
of a local hero, with his picture in the newspapers.
As the film begins, it’s clear that Albert is beginning to chafe under the watchfulness of his
overprotective mother Edna (Debra Monk). While she grudgingly allows him to work in a local
copy shop run by a former acquaintance (Bruce Dern), she also continues to exert control over
her son. Using the time-old guilt (“what would you do without me to take care of you?”), she is
something of a harpy (although Monk’s nuanced performance allows the audience to see the
caring underneath). Albert’s world begins to become complicated with the arrival of female
grifter Tuey (Alison Folland), who poses as a reporter, and her teenage brother (Hank Harris),
who claims to be dying of “ball cancer.” Edna is immediately suspicious of the young woman
without ever meeting her. She’s perpetually fearful that people will exploit her son.
After Edna is killed in a hit-and-run accident, Albert finds himself alone, but he struggles on.
Of course, the vultures, in the form of Tuey and a male con man (Randy Quaid) who claims to be
Albert’s father, swoop in almost immediately.
R.D. Murphy’s script has more plot holes than a slice of Swiss cheese. Although the film is
set in a suburb of Milwaukee, it might as well be in Neverland. While Albert is familiar to his
neighbors, no one seems to check in on him after his mother dies except McNally (who has ties
to the young man that are easily guessed). A young woman dressed like a reject from a
Madonna tour claiming to be a reporter from Time magazine doesn’t even raise an eyebrow.
And where are the detectives investigating the hit-and-run death of Albert’s mother? Those are
just some of the improbabilities that flow through the script.
Still, one becomes intrigued with the tale, mostly because of the actors involved. Garity
continues to grow as a performer, and while this hardly matches his peerless work in
SOLDIER’S GIRL, his performance here is terrific. More than once, he appears to be
channeling a younger version of Dustin Hoffman’s Raymond in RAIN MAN. Despite playing
a very unlikable character, Folland manages to inject some humanity in the role, but I didn’t buy
her 11th hour moment of realization. Harris as her hypochondriac brother is amusing and old
pros Dern and Quaid are solid in their roles. There are jarring cameos by Holly Woodlawn and
Josh Brolin who appear to have wandered in from another, stranger film.
Novice director Alan Mindel appears to be going for something along the lines of the Coen
brothers’ FARGO, but he comes a cropper. The film doesn’t so much end or resolve itself but
slowly fades away. – probably not unlike audiences’ feelings about this misguided film.
MPAA rating: R for language, sexual content, some violence and brief drug use
Running time: 95 mins.
Viewed at Magno Review One
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.