Monday, May 31, 2021

Blow the Man Down (2019)

Problems of categorizing: I picked this movie more or less out of a hat from a list of "movies to see" I cobbled together late last year out of best-of lists and recommendations on social media. The list is full of movies about which I know nothing or very little until I go to look at them. Sometimes I go in entirely blind, sometimes I check IMDb or even a review or two. In this case, I noted that IMDb classes Blow the Man Down as "comedy, drama, mystery" (again, I ask, is this alphabetical?) with an aggregate ranking of 6.4 (that's too low btw so I gave it a 7). Later, after I'd seen it, I looked up Glenn Kenny's review on where he mentions the comic aspects of the picture too. Look, yes, Blow the Man Down has some bits that are funny, but they are mostly there for the relief from a nicely constructed thriller, and welcome at that. The picture also asserts eccentric indie cred with a perversely effective Greek chorus of New England fishermen who jump in and start singing sea shanties (like the title song, which I used to associate only with Popeye but has definitely been growing on me for some time now). It's mainly a predicament movie, in which characters get themselves into one and it only seems to keep getting worse, the kind of movie you talk to in the privacy of your home. "That body is never going to fit into that cooler," I said at one point, for example. Or, at another: "Stop wasting time now. Go get that knife or there's going to be trouble with it later." Or: "Are you kidding me? You should not believe a word this person is saying." And, of course: "Oh, noo!" And so forth. I consider the impulse (which I would never indulge in a theater or with company, of course) a mark of a pretty good suspense film, so add that please to the categories for Blow the Man Down along with thriller. It's set in Maine—the New England accents may be variously strained or nonexistent from character to character, but that's all right. Two young women, barely of age, have lost their mother and the picture starts on the day of her funeral. The younger girl, Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor), deals with her grief and hatred of the small town by going out that night, getting drunk, and finding herself in a royal predicament. You'll have your own words of advice for her. I had mine. She didn't listen, of course, and she probably won't listen to you either. Things do not get better from there, as various unsavory secrets of the town start to emerge while Mary Beth and her older and more mature sister Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) are busy trying to get out of the predicament. I think the secret of Blow the Man Down (aside from the singing fishermen and worrisome predicament) is casting the older characters well. The town madam Enid, for example, is a first-rate turn from Margo Martindale, a ubiquitous figure of TV (The Americans, Dexter, The Good Wife, Justified, Mrs. America, and many others). She is quite terrifying here. Or Susie (June Squibb), a bawdy but kindly old lady who's been around the block. Squibb has too, in places like Alexander Payne pictures (Nebraska, About Schmidt). Blow the Man Down is not perfect but it's good enough to get me talking out loud with some urgency to the screen. And I have to think codirectors and cowriters Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy are two to keep an eye on.

No comments:

Post a Comment