VOD Review - Dixieland

In a lot of narratives, documentary or archival footage will be incorporated, especially if the narrative is telling a true-life story. Often, it will be archival footage from some time ago. It's rare for someone shooting a narrative to also shoot documentary footage that will be placed in the narrative as well. Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini did so for American Splendor and Richard Linklater did so for Bernie. What they did was interview real people connected to the true-life story being told. Those interviews added color or filled out the story. This movie, written and directed by Hank Bedford, isn't telling a true-life story per se, so when Bedford's interviews are integrated or inserted, they can feel like tangents that don't add much to the overall narrative.

That narrative involves Kermit, played by Chris Zylka (The Secret Circle and The Leftovers), a young man who could be described as poor white trash. He just got out of prison for attacking a guy who was with his mom. He goes back to living with his mom, Arletta, played by Faith Hill. She stays in a trailer in Mississippi. The former Confederate state is part of the south referred to as Dixie. The economics of which, like slavery, played a factor during the secession as it does in this movie.

Riley Keough (The Runaways and Mad Max: Fury Road) co-stars as Rachel, the next door neighbor to Kermit whose mom is sick and has expensive medical bills. She gets a job as a stripper working for the same guy that Kermit attacked, a sleaze named Larry Pretty, played by Brad Carter, who treats his dancers as slaves or else his property.

At first, she's wary of Kermit, but when he rescues her from a scary encounter with Larry Pretty, Rachel immediately falls for Kermit. Zylka and Keough's physical beauty is a stark contrast to the real people captured in Bedford's documentary portions, so when we see Kermit and Rachel together, the heightened romanticism can't be helped. Yet, Zylka and Keough's performances are so good and natural that at times it's hard to distinguish their scenes from ones of real people in a documentary. We're snapped out of it because of the sex scene, which no real person would have allowed to be filmed who wasn't an amateur porn star.

Yet, even the performances of some of the other young actors are really good. RJ Mitte (Breaking Bad and Switched at Birth) plays CJ and Spencer Lofranco (Jamesy Boy and Unbroken) plays Billy, two friends of Kermit who are involved in the local drug trade. Mitte and Lofranco are two great, aspiring actors, but Bedford's film, especially in the second half doesn't make great use of them. He presents a nondescript drug deal that goes wrong that leads to tragic consequences, rather unexpected ones, but it all builds to a moment that felt unearned.

We're not given much of Kermit's time in prison, if it was really hard on him or not. There's not much desperation that's felt once he's released that would make me think he had no other way out and that he was trapped. Kermit in the end commits a shocking act, which I'm not sure what it signifies.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains sexuality, nudity and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 38 mins.

Available on Netflix Watch Instant.


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