Saturday, January 16, 2016

White Lightnin'

Director - Dominic Murphy (Fear in the Dark)
Starring - Edward Hogg (Jupiter Ascending), Carrie Fisher (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and Stephanie Astalos-Jones (A Walk in the Woods)
Release Date - 2009
Genre - Drama/Thriller
Tagline - "There's the devil runnin' thru my blood..."
Format - DVD (Personal Collection)

Rating (out of 5):
     When I was high school I came across a metal mag that featured a story about prog metal band Mastodon.  This was sometime before they were nominated for a Grammy.  I went out and grabbed a few CDs from the used record store and instantly fell in love with them.  I could not stop listening to them.  One song that caught my friend and I off guard was Hail to Fire from their Lifesblood album.  The opening featured a sound bite of someone, clearly Appalachian, ranting about eggs.  We did a little searching and discovered that it was a native of West Virginia named Jesco White.  We knew nothing of the man and did some research and discovered that he is easily one of the most interesting men to come out of the mountain state.  White has went on to become a folk hero here in the rolling hills of Dub V.  His family exploits has spawned songs. documentaries, and even a bio-drama titled White Lightnin' that was released in 2009.  I saw the film in college and loved it.  Sadly, I was unable to find the film to purchase for myself and it slipped from memory.  One day I was at Ollie's of all places and happened to find a DVD copy for just $2.  I had to have it and jumped on it.  When I went to revisit the film I decided I would write a quick review about it.
     The film begins when Jesco was just a small boy addicted to huffing gas, paint, and lighter fluid.  His dad, D. Ray White, is a famous dancer known for melding clogging and tap dancing that has been dubbed the Appalachian Stop among many other names.  D. Ray wanted his son to follow in his footsteps and be a dancer but Jesco just wanted to get high and would do anything he could to find his next fix.   D. Ray sent him away several times to juvenile detention facilities and the like in hopes of reforming his son but it never did work.  After an incident involving heroin, Young Jesco is sent to a mental institution where he stayed for years.  While in there his father D. Ray is murdered and Jesco is not told until his release for fear of setting him off.  He is an adult when he is finally released and he starts performing his father's dance routine through West Virginia and the surrounding states.  He has an altercation and his guitarist and ride leaves him behind forcing him to walk home where he is picked up by a woman.  He starts calling her Cilla and before long he has found his way into her paints and her heart.  She leaves her husband and kids and moves in with Jesco and discovers that the grass is not always greener on the other side.
      I have learned a lot about Jesco over the years since I discovered his soundbite in that Mastodon song and I have tried several times to meet the man only to find myself very disappointed.  His life story has become legend here in the state.  Some fantasize about his rebellious behavior while others are disgusted by the way he makes other West Virginians look.  However, you look at it, the man is known the world over.  White Lightnin' takes a look at the life of Jesco but does put it's own exaggerated spin on it.  The acting in this one is fantastic and one of the best acted films I have seen.  Every cast member deserves their due but because the cast is rather large I will have to skip on all that and get into my favorite performances.  Owen Campbell portrays Jesco when he was a kid and this was absolutely brilliant.  He perfectly captures the way I hear the stories of Jesco in my head.  Anarchic and chaotic.  Carrie Fischer.  Yes, Princess Leia, is great in her roll as well but she is far from the wife the world knows Jesco to have before her passing.  He performance is great and she steals every scene but she was not realistic.  With all that being said, the film would not be what it is if it wasn't for Edward Hogg.  Hogg is spot on as the dancing outlaw and delivers one intense performance.  I have seen thousands of films in my short life and his performance as Jesco is easily my favorite. The story for this one is a dark take of the life of Jesco and it embellishes several moments of it.  The film follows the story of Jesco pretty closely but over exaggerates several of these key moments to make them more entertaining for the film which is understandable.  I have seen several documentaries on the man and could easily spot the differences but that is why I love this movie.  It takes several dark turns and delivers a real gripping drama that feels like a dark thriller. Finally, the film is surprisingly gruesome and has a few kills that are very entertaining and disgusting.  It has one kill that rivals anything you can find in horror right now.  The practical effects for these kills are great as well which only add to the entertainment.  Overall, White Lightnin' is one hell of a movie and should be in any collection.  It is an exaggeration of the life and times of Jesco White but it is entertaining as fuck.  I can not recommend this movie enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment