Pusher

If you’re used to the amenities of even a smaller city, life in a small town might seem more like life on another planet. Maybe you might luck out and there’ll be a pizza place that delivers until 8:00, but you aren’t exactly going to have a lot of options for eating out. I went to a high school in a town of about 2,000 people and it was big news when the Dairy Queen opened up. Of course there were bars, but about the only other place available to hang out was the bowling alley where you might pick up an overdone hot dog. This might seem laughable if you’re used to New York or Chicago, but some do prefer a slower pace to life and like knowing all their neighbors. If you aren’t cut out for the quiet life, though — as seems to be the case with many of the characters in Pusher — it’s easy to fall into some very bad habits.

The stereotype of the dealer loitering on an urban street corner isn’t necessarily all that accurate; today the “average” dealer is just as likely to live in a double-wide on the gravel road by the factory where half the town works, selling prescription meds to friends and neighbors. That’s basically how Brittany Lee (Andi Morrow, Here Lies Joe) runs her business, taking in supplies from Hailey (Dara Tiller) and passing them on to loyal customers like James (Levi Krevinghouse). This particular business causes some awkward situations — Brittany and Hailey can barely stand each other, and while James and Brittany might once have gotten along great, these days they hardly know what to say to each other.

James & Brittany in front of his trailer
James and Brittany share an incredibly awkward moment.

And Brittany, feeling the sudden, powerful effects of guilt, wants to talk to James, to try to make amends, but they’re as stuck in this pattern as they are stuck in the town. James has no support system to turn to, and Brittany has few options for making a living in an area that’s clearly deeply economically depressed. And so the vicious cycle continues.

Yes, it is a downer of a film, but it also encapsulates modern small town life, with an ending that’s both oddly unexpected and utterly inevitable. The cast and crew have also made it intriguing, through often brutal realism and the occasional flash of the dry, dark humor that helps the characters get through their lives. Some days might be hopeful, others despairing, but all anyone can really do is to take them as they come. Morrow and Krevinghouse convincingly portray the bizarre, dependent dynamic between a dealer and a client who grew up together, against the backdrop of a town clinging to its existence. This could be any town — yours or the next one down the highway, and the people could be you or anyone you’ve ever known, all of them just muddling and struggling through from day to day.

Here Lies Joe

Joe contemplates the cemetery and also his car keys.

You have to be careful who you talk to in a support group, especially when you’re new. Just ask the title character in Here Lies Joe (Dean Temple), who’s just started attending a suicide prevention support group. It’s run by Bill (Timothy J. Cox), who means well but seems to be more concerned with what’s appropriate than with anyone’s well-being. To be fair, the overly happy slogans everywhere may have skewed his thinking.

Continue reading “Here Lies Joe”