Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Welcome to Pine Hill: Last Call in Brooklyn
has all the irony he can take. He works
as a claims adjuster, but he is uninsured.
The former drug dealer has just recently straightened out his life, only
to learn it will all soon end. Resolutely,
he settles unfinished business as best he can in Keith Miller’s Welcome to Pine Hill (trailer here), which opens
tomorrow in New York at the IFC Center.
the opening scene, lead actor Shannon Harper and writer-director Miller
re-enact the real life incident that brought them together. Their dispute over and lost-and-found pit
bull puppy first became Miller’s short film Prince/William,
expanded here into a full length feature.
It is a telling exchange between the gentrifier and the encroached. However Harper’s Abu has more pressing
concerns when his persistent stomach pains are diagnosed as a rare form of
cancer. With no real options available,
Abu aims for some closure, or at least the settling of debts.
Pine might sound
depressing because it is. There is just
no getting around it. Yet, it is also completely
hypnotic. Harper holds viewers
absolutely riveted with his quiet intensity, suggesting the crushing weight of
all the remorse, regret, fear, and pain bearing down on him. Recognizing the power and immediacy of his
work, Miller focuses in on Harper, letting him carry the picture on his
fact, the film’s spell is only broken when Miller forces the action into what
are clearly intended to be teaching moments.
We watch Abu moonlighting at a bar, where the white customers are
nauseatingly condescending, only to witness the protagonist act similarly with
immigrant cab drivers. Okay, we get it.
Although certainly looking DIY-ish and
improvisational, Pine should not be
lumped in the rest of the aimless mumblecore field. It is definitely headed someplace in
particular (Upstate New York), while addressing some profoundly heavy themes—sort
of like an Amour for Brooklyn
hipsters. Recommended largely on the
strength of Harper’s breakout performance for those who follow the indie scene,
Welcome to Pine Hill opens tomorrow
(3/1) at the IFC Center.
Labels: Brooklyn Films, Shannon Harper