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Jackpot (2001)
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by Greg Muskewitz

"More like crackpot."
3 stars

Jackpot also has a couple of mentionables, certainly no one to cough at, but disposed to being either has-beens or never-will-bes.

Namely, in the first category, Peggy Lipton and Darryl Hannah, and in the second, Anthony Edwards. As I said, none of these actors are anything to scoff at, but their minimal roles in this are prime evidence of their (cinematic) careers. At least with Lipton and Edwards, they had/have The Mod Squad/Twin Peaks and ER. Amidst all this is at least one bright star, or hopeful star maybe. In the Polish Brother’s first film Twin Falls Idaho, they discovered the model Michele Hicks as their hooker with a heart of gold as a wonderful, untapped talent. In this, though in a much smaller capacity, they bring model Camellia Clouse to the fore, and indelibly sear her into our memory banks, causing one’s yen for more than the dash and pinch she was around for. The movie itself is a disappointment—especially compared to their esteemed debut—which focuses on an estranged husband (Jon Gries) living out a competition Karaoke career with his scamming manager (Garrett Morris), mostly singing to bluesy, twangy country hits. The road trip starts off, or more accurately picks up with an interview for a newspaper at a rundown restaurant, mostly concerning the whereabouts and success of the “singer.” (His next stop: Jackpot, “just south of Twin Falls—Twin Falls, Idaho. I know that place well,” mocks the writer, referring to both cities which are fictional.) Jackpot is intercut between scenes on the road going to and at performances, and an ominous meeting with his foul-mouthed estranged wife and toddler daughter, with the progressions of both variations, which in some form or another, cross axises at some point. Like himself, Sunny Holiday (Gries) runs into equally peculiar people at his competitions—usually women, who he will sleep with and then try to sell a cleaning fluid to the morning after to help fund his dream. One such coincidence, when an admiring fan tries to peek at him over a toilet stall, falls and hits her head, he brings her home, almost to have a fling with her underage daughter—a “kitten in heat” (Clouse). Narrative twists and all, Jackpot was already beginning to meander early on, so had Clouse’s character had an inflated bearing into the story, I don’t think it would have hurt, I think it would have helped, granted the fact that it ergo would have been a whole other movie. Both Brothers, Michael and Mark, write, and Michael directs, and though the story has a few interesting avenues, they are not defined, clear, or very worthwhile to travel down. The brother’s knack for odd characters (Morris had a wonderful supporting role in Twin Falls) is recognizable here, but still those characters, too, remain blurred and unrefined. Despite the subject matter of their two films, this one comes of feeling more like the experimental version, at least in terms of technical components. Though the ill-fated tale of the Siamese brothers may have had some semblance of Elephant Man-indie style experimentalism, in Jackpot, the Polishes try their hands on digital video. The images look good and as though time and effort were put into their sleek and un-video look, and the frames are usually crammed with some ridiculous color scheme, like the hot pink of Clouse’s bedroom. But the Brothers also feel the need to have the movie excessively and annoyingly over-edited, sliced, diced, cross-cut and fissured. The hyper-activity and choppiness of the images is something that you never are able to get accustomed to, at least not in an escapist illusion. This is undoubtedly a continuation of quirkiness that the Polish Brothers burst upon the scene with two years ago, but it removes them from an auspicious reminder of David Lynch or David Cronenberg, and places them instead in an Alan Rudolph or Don McKellar, but in amateurized treatments. Also, the pervasive bad language is even more nettlesome than in Jay and Silent Bob.

With Adam Baldwin.

Final Verdict: C+.

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originally posted: 09/17/01 13:28:31
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User Comments

4/27/04 Stephen Johnston Profound examination at the elisive quest for fame and immortality. 5 stars
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  27-Jul-2001 (R)



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