COOK COUNTY (2009)
Running Time: 93 mins. Rating: 3 1/2 Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: R
Director: David Pomes
Distributor: Hannover House
Cast: Anson Mount, Xander Berkeley, Ryan Donowho, Polly Cole, Rutherford Cravens, Makenna Fitzsimmons, Brandon Smith, John McClain, Yankie Grant, J.D. Hawkins, Gary Chason, Toby Lister
COOK COUNTY has the feel of really being there and at the same time wishing you could get the next bus to anywhere else. In this beat town in East Texas, a dysfunctional family tries to make sense of itself in a world that offers little hope or understanding. They live with consistent lack of jobs, crap food and a desperate vision for a future; remnants of the American dream epidemic that still holds them in its thorny claw.
COOK COUNTY could be any one of the dying small towns across America where poverty and lack of opportunity more often than not lead to drugs and alcohol as a respite from ennui and rage. In this case, it’s crystal meth, the one crystal not approved of by the New Age. Meth makes them crazy and mean, and producing it becomes a way of supporting their slight life style. That they don’t all commit group suicide is an indication of just how delusional this type of living becomes.
A solid script by writer/director David Pomes, a first film for a lawyer-by-day, and terrific performances by Xander Berkeley (‘24’) and Anson Mount (‘Hell On Wheels’), who also co-produced it, along with Polly Cole, they lend much weight to this tough film. It’s hard to hate these people as the hero Berkeley truly tries to make a shift; but they are a by-product of something gone wrong for too long. When Mount’s daughter and nephew (Ryan Donowho, BROKEN FLOWERS) spend a day with overweight relatives in a safe and Christian Texas suburb, the extremes of our culture really hit home. There is no in-between in the lives of these people. Feast or famine. At home, Berkeley tells his son Donowho to put newly purchased potato chips in a bowl. The son looks at him as if he’s out of his mind. They haven’t eaten out of a bowl in years.
Mount, as the worst of the addicts, has to make a choice at one point… to feed his addiction or sacrifice the only bit of the feminine left in him. It is a Lear moment, a blind man unable to control base instincts of ego and need. It is a brave and scary piece of writing and acting.
This film is finally being released after receiving numerous festival awards and deserves attention. It’s not pretty like DAYS OF HEAVEN, but is pretty accurate in portraying forgotten America.
If you like this recommendations: Drugstore Cowboy, More, Spun