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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 23.71%
Average: 1.03%
Pretty Bad: 2.06%
Total Crap: 28.87%

4 reviews, 73 user ratings

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by Rob Gonsalves

"Still more interesting than most of what's out there."
4 stars

When Harmony Korine's "Gummo" crept into theaters like a scabby thief in the night, it was greeted with the sort of critical violence that always makes me want to see the movie for myself. Sometimes a universally hated film is universally hated for a reason, and I've gotten stung at such movies as "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" and "North." But other such despised movies, like "Crash" and "A Life Less Ordinary," made me wonder if the entirety of American critics had seen the same film I saw. We say we want something different, and yet when a film actually gives us that, we punish it, mock it, call it pretentious and pointless.

My honest opinion? I liked Gummo. That surprised me, since I'm not a big fan of Kids, the overhyped 1995 film that Harmony Korine wrote (Larry Clark directed it). Kids tried to be an old-fashioned cautionary tale dressed up in new-shit hipster clothes; the result was a shrewdly posturing work -- a film that young urban moviegoers could attend and pretend they'd walked on the wild side. Gummo, which Korine wrote and directed, is closer to the real thing. If it were a documentary, Korine would be hoisted up there alongside Errol Morris and Terry Zwigoff as a filmmaker who captured the chaos of inner life. Because it's fiction, Korine is denounced as an exploitative brat with a camera.

What's really going on here? Seems to me a lot of urban baby-boomer critics have a knee-jerk aversion to any work that shows poverty-stricken rural people but doesn't serve up a clearcut uplifting message (banks are bad, farms are good, the community will always pull together, etc.). Gummo is set in Xenia, Ohio, a town that never recovered from a tornado. (It was shot in Nashville, though.) The two main characters are Tummler (Nick Sutton) and Solomon (Jacob Reynolds), two aimless kids who kill cats so they can sell them for meat and buy glue to huff. Korine regards them neutrally, without comment, and he treats everyone else onscreen the same way. That this is condemned as condescension, and not merely depiction, shows the condescension of the critics -- the same well-to-do critics who hate Jerry Springer because its guests are supposedly too ignorant (i.e., too small-town) to know they're being exploited.

Working with cinematographer Jean-Yves Escoffier (Good Will Hunting), Korine sustains a depressive mood, a world of muted colors and no expectations, a place where entertainment consists of watching two men beat up a kitchen chair. Some may ask why we'd want to watch such things. Me, I think it's a relief. When a film like Crash or Gummo comes along that's so not Hollywood, so not about cute people with cute flaws and happy endings, we Americans, who claim to be sick of the same action movies and romantic comedies, have the gall to complain that movies like Gummo have no story. Well, the non-story in Gummo interested me a hell of a lot more than the non-stories that Hollywood passes off as stories.

And Korine is a far more inventive visual filmmaker than his one-time director (and photographer) Larry Clark ever was. That famous shot of Jacob Reynolds eating spaghetti in a tub full of gray bathwater puts a slippery finger on a part of your brain that usually isn't touched. The movie is full of such bothersome, elusive images (a kid with pink bunny ears strolling across a bleak landscape; a retarded woman shaving her eyebrows; two skinheads pummeling each other -- for real; the sight of Out of the Blue's Linda Manz as Solomon's weird, tap-dancing mom). Directors have been hailed as visionaries for less. In fact, if Gummo had subtitles and came from, say, the Netherlands or Spain, some of the same critics who shat all over it might have embraced it.

There's also a hidden compassion in Gummo -- the movie's dirty little secret is that it's not as coldly hip as it lets on. The notorious scene in which Solomon shoots the comatose old woman in the foot is actually rather ambiguous: this is their hapless attempt to wake her up. Another scene that drew critical fire -- Korine's cameo as a drunk guy who comes on to an encephalitic black dwarf after talking about how lonely he is -- struck me as oddly moving. Can we just not deal with movies that don't express emotions the same old way? Can't we, for just 90 minutes, rise to the challenge of genuinely difficult art?

Your reaction to the people in Gummo says more about you than it does about them or Korine. If you recoil or laugh or scoff, you should ask yourself why. Perhaps the comatose old woman is Korine's metaphor for the lazy, narrow-minded, unadventurous American audience that he hopes to wake up. Most critics have rewarded him with a kick in the ass, but they should be thanking him. Better he should make X-Men 4?

I'm reminded of a great quote by Spike Lee: when an interviewer said that Spike's use of different styles in the same movie isn't what some people are used to, Lee retorted, "Most of the movies that people are used to suck anyway!" A sentiment with which, I think, Harmony Korine would heartily agree.

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originally posted: 12/25/06 05:47:33
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User Comments

11/22/14 Mark Gummo's one of the best films I've seen: powerful, uncompromising, ultimately heartbreaking 5 stars
1/11/12 Samson If you do not see the chaotic beauty in Gummo, you and I will never agree on anything. 5 stars
8/25/11 louise what a load of crap 1 stars
12/03/10 Colton Bose A brilliant debut from one of the only true geniuses at work in modern cinema. 5 stars
8/10/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Pseudo documentary about inbread mutants in Ohio. 4 stars
5/04/10 J There's an in-between of Hollywood films and this crap..Shocking doesn't auto. mean good 1 stars
3/20/10 dancing lizard lasting trauma effects feeling/being lost, forgotten, dirty, w/o direction 4 stars
3/07/10 SmoothEdgy Appease your shadow! Watch this film! 5 stars
2/19/10 Dave Schniedberg Harmony korine is an aboslute moron. meaningless art. infer all you want, its accidental. 1 stars
11/04/09 a random girl one of the weirdest and most interesting movies i've seen. 0.o 4 stars
4/20/09 belike This movie reminds me of blue velvet. 4 stars
4/20/09 mr.mike Strangely fascinating but the endless parade of oddballs eventually becomes tiresome. 3 stars
4/02/09 Anonymous. i was surprised i liked this... 4 stars
12/01/08 Chunga not enough stars to movie ever !!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
1/02/08 Tiffiny This movie, although disturbing, was amazing. Gods forgotten children. The realism of life. 5 stars
6/14/07 Sugarfoot Offensive not because of its content but because of it's unwatchability factor. 1 stars
1/22/07 buckwheat korine nurtures it out of the womb and feeds it bacon. he weeps for the bastard child. 5 stars
8/26/06 M. Mirliss A buffet of memorable scenes a unique and brilliant cinematic voice of our time. 5 stars
6/01/06 molly People aren't seeing the point of this film. It shows reality and uniquness. 5 stars
5/25/06 andrew great movie should be a sequel 5 stars
12/18/05 Jintan Mental Syrup of Ipecac. 1 stars
6/10/05 peroxide harm is genius 5 stars
4/05/05 EclecticEnnui I love it. 4 stars
1/02/05 Chris This movie is so self important and shallow not to mention bad that its funny 1 stars
11/29/04 Ur Reviewer Sux A marvelous piece of art. To understand itn 5 stars
10/26/04 Jon It's just some fucking NYC kid's false perception of what middle America is like. 1 stars
10/09/04 Zach Good film, takes a brain and open mind to enjoy! 5 stars
8/17/04 Gabriel saw this movie high, thought it still sucked. 2 stars
8/11/04 safri 'break(ing) the waves & dance(r) in the dark-rock on harmony! 5 stars
7/26/04 Christopher Moore Love it or hate it, it's not about Xenia, Ohio. A culmination of all small towns. 4 stars
6/22/04 neubauten Harmony Korine is a no talent turd and people who think he's deep are so fucking deluded 1 stars
4/20/04 coreyhaim I wouldn't even give it one star if I wasn't being FORCED! This movie is ass! 1 stars
4/19/04 Jack Sommersby Like Korine's-written "Kids", it confuses grittiness with "truth". 1 stars
2/26/04 Agadil Truly and deeply one of the best films I have ever seen. Amazing. 5 stars
11/24/02 heather go beyound the boundries. god dammit. 5 stars
11/18/02 alex aeQea ariumn humans rule 5 stars
10/08/02 chris listen to the director's comments on the'll at least understand what he's doing 5 stars
9/30/02 James Superb originality, korine's off at a great start 5 stars
9/27/02 division_joy harmony korine should be dismembered and burned for this shit 1 stars
5/30/02 JD without a doubt, the absolute worst movie ever made. Korine is a worthless sack of shit. 1 stars
4/04/02 John Freedom The movie is very close to the experience of my childhood. I grew up in a place like that. 5 stars
3/11/02 Brad Streep This film makes my nippples HARD! I LOVE IT! 5 stars
12/03/01 Caiphn Well I love my little rooster and my rooster loves me 5 stars
11/16/01 Rufus McGunner GAG! Total and complete Horseshit! 1 stars
9/24/01 Elgyn I never get tired of this movie. A classic. 5 stars
9/12/01 Rob Banfitch a unique movie that defies convention and holds you the whole way through 5 stars
5/10/01 Ro Disturbing and brilliant 4 stars
4/27/01 WhiteGutterTrash This Movie was a sick and evil joy ride...!!! 5 stars
4/08/01 Toktela Finally some originality 5 stars
2/27/01 perverted pixie Ugly, beautiful...Maltin opinions are dinosaur. Haters of this film are voidoids... 5 stars
2/25/01 Rob Banfitch a mishmash of erratic genius 5 stars
2/21/01 Rocket Boy Ugggggggh 1 stars
11/14/00 MiS^DeMeAnOr disturbing with a few amusing parts 2 stars
10/25/00 Jacob Smith One of the most important film's of our time. A piece of pure mastery. 5 stars
10/15/00 fm hmmmmm..... 4 stars
8/04/00 daymia kelley alive, dynamic, different stab at white trash rural life. 5 stars
7/26/00 Basil Sooo weird I just had to go out and buy it. 5 stars
12/28/99 Bigs Obvious raw talent 5 stars
11/05/99 will an interesting trip that goes nowhere but the scenery is nice. pretty nifty. 4 stars
10/24/99 kim Had my best laugh of the week! The last line of Jonny Angel's review. Wonderful and apt! 1 stars
10/21/99 Annah Integrity all the way 5 stars
9/17/99 strike Nothing happens, but still a strangely intruiging piece of Americana. 4 stars
7/14/99 machine disturbing but very cool 5 stars
7/03/99 Arlene childishly sadistic - moron with a camera 1 stars
6/19/99 mr. peepers You say potato, I say genius.... 5 stars
4/15/99 Jon Jackson My god this movie is like two bags of shit! 1 stars
1/02/99 tarkin666 Whipping dead cats is good clean fun. 5 stars
12/09/98 Shadow Raider Don't waste your last moment on this shit. Pretentious trash for everybody! 1 stars
11/22/98 Miss Elaineous Awesome, the funniest movie I've seen in a long time ! 5 stars
11/01/98 Bad Kosh If you watch that shit, don't say I didn't warn you, 'cuz it sucks crap. 1 stars
8/31/98 Harrison Long Let my suffering be a warning to you, do not waste a moment of you life on this shit 1 stars
8/31/98 Mister Whoopee Korine is a hack. A no talent. Pretentious shit. 1 stars
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  17-Oct-1997 (R)



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