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2 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Running Stumbled
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by Erik Childress

"For Those Who Found The Jarrett Family Too Cuddly"
4 stars

SCREENED VIA THE 2006 CINEVEGAS FILM FESTIVAL: Few films in my thirty-year history have ever been tougher to watch than Running Stumbled. I flirted with turning it off, leaving the room, pausing it to put some intermissions between the madness. If I had seen it uninterrupted in a theater, I honestly don’t know if I would have made it. But I’m glad I did. Because despite whatever unpleasantness comes with the experience, John Maringouin has not just turned the camera on his dysfunctional family but has done it in such a way that we become not just observers but the director himself.

John’s family is the kind that makes you think you were too hard on the folks from Ordinary People or the homebodies of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. His father (Johnny Roe, Jr.) carries himself around in a walker when he’s not lying in bed waiting to tell someone about his bullet wound. Stepmom (Virgie Marie Pennoui) is filled up with cancer and almost expects to die by the time the next tape is loaded. When Johnny is asked if he loves Virgie he responds, “How can you love an asshole?” That tells you about all you need to know about mom and dad, but their anger and pain goes well beyond.

Constantly discussing the amount of pills being put into their bodies, Virgie rummages through the cluttered house looking for images to give her son for his movie, hoping that she has more to leave behind than just pictures for the will she keeps meaning to get around to. Half of these family photographs capture a period in their lives when it must have felt necessary to have a gun in their hands. Johnny used to be a pimp in New Orleans and may have even committed a murder he was never convicted of. The way he verbally demeans Virgie with vulgarities and suggesting ways for her to speed up her demise echoes her evolution from a beautiful young woman (seen in one B&W photo) to the shell of a woman counting the days to finally be rid of all the emotional and physical pain she’s accumulated over a lifetime with Johnny.

Buried within the shouting is some bizarrely uncomfortable humor involving Uncle Stanley Laviolette, the loudmouth relative we can probably all relate to. His know-it-all manner of speech often leads to arguments and wanting to pick fights, but leads to the few moments of the film where absurd laughter becomes a decompression valve relieving the pressure from your heart. Or John’s heart. Maringouin’s greatest feat in piecing together his issues is in presenting it to us in the form of a nightmare. The cinematography is faded, stylized and rocky that pierces through the camera and right into the corneas of the filmmaker/son working it. At one point, the screen splits into red-and-blue panels as if we’re witnessing the unhappiness through 3-D glasses in the hopes that its all just a movie and a suitable replacement for the rose-colored variety which will never be available. “I must have slid through a bad dimension,” says Johnny, unknowingly speaking more for his son than his own misfortunes.

Running Stumbled will draw comparisons to other dysfunctional family journeys like Grey Gardens and Tarnation, although repeat viewings may be next to impossible. Our hearts go out to John as we wonder how he survived the endurance test of making this film let alone a lifetime of anguish not captured in the pleasant home movies which close the film. When Johnny is asked “what’s tomorrow?” he responds, “The day after today” and then repeats those very words, possibly reminding those around him to take things one day at a time and tomorrow might be better. As Virgie watches Armand Assante in TV’s The Odyssey she humorously states, “you think you have problems, you should see this guy.” I don’t know if even Odysseus could have endured this family.

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originally posted: 05/30/06 01:31:01
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2006 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/17/12 michael laviolette i played in this movie the only thing i dont like about this movie is seeing my grandmother 5 stars
6/17/06 Jason Lane Unbelievable. This film is destined to be a classic 5 stars
6/05/06 Mike Richards Whoa... 5 stars
6/02/06 San Lamar i liked it 4 stars
6/02/06 Lars Awesome!!! 5 stars
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