News from the Locarno Festival

Slackjaw – Punk Human Guinea Pig

Slackjaw – Punk Human Guinea Pig



Our sad-sack hero, Rob, has no discernible employment outside of fronting a hardcore punk band, which can’t really pay the bills. Multinational conglomerate EvCorp has set up shop in Rob’s small town (actually Olympia, Washington), and he and a friend apply to be a human guinea pig for “organic synthesis research… to aid the brothers and sisters overseas,” justifying it by explaining: “It’s the most American thing I can do”. After undergoing a series of bizarre tests, he isn’t picked, but his pal stays behind. On his way out, Rob runs into Jesse, an old high-school friend who’s obsessed with a song they played together, back in Rob’s ukulele days.

With nothing much better to do, Rob falls in with Jesse and his friends, more bros than hipsters, whose mindless forms of interaction represent a way of life far removed (and more appealing?) from Rob’s reality. All the while, the looming presence of EvCorp threatens to split the community – shooting in widescreen, director Zach Weintraub throws a soupçon of semi-urban paranoia into the indie recipe – and Rob’s physical and mental health seem to be deteriorating. Slackjaw may refer to a medical condition exacerbated by excessive July 4th hot dog consumption, but of course also evokes the slacker cinema of which Zach Weintraub’s bromantic dramedy is a superb addition. 

Mark Peranson

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