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Can you believe Highland Park is a real place?
rooprect from New York City
25 March 2014
The city of Highland Park, Michigan is one of those places whose Google
Earth pictures are blurry because the Google van was tearing ass to get
out of there in one piece.
Seriously, that's one rough looking neighborhood. Smack in the middle
of Detroit, the city's appeal is not helped by the fact that the
corrupt politicians in charge of the city somehow managed to make over
$20 million dollars disappear in the 90s, even though the city's
population is barely 100,000. None of this is specifically in the movie
(at least not real names), but you can't help but wonder how much of
this satirical comedy is fact.
"Highland Park" the movie is a great experience, not necessarily
laugh-out-loud-funny nor edge-of-seat entertaining, but the themes and
quirky characters are really fun to explore. Great acting by everyone,
particularly Danny Glover who plays a cluelessly superstitious old
dreamer, keeps your attention from start to finish.
I won't say much about the plot, but let me put it this way... How
would you be affected if you suddenly won the lottery? Would you
embrace life? Be a better person? Would you change the world in a
positive way? And now let me ask you: are you already doing any of
those things? If you are, that's awesome. You will enjoy this film.
It's an interesting character study of how people are affected by money
and how it brings out their true(?) nature.
"Highland Park" focuses on 6 downtrodden friends who, every week for 10
years, play the same numbers in the lottery hoping to win big and
change their sagging lives. Much like the city of Highland Park, they
each have tremendous potential, but they're just stuck in a rut.
Parker Posey plays one of her signature wacky roles as the bimbo Mayor
of Highland Park, an ex-homecoming queen who's just one Gucci away from
trailer park trash. She keeps cutting the budget (things like
education, parks, sewer cleanup) in favor of "sexy" projects like malls
and things for her rich cronies. The satire is delightful, and I
imagine that the unlucky souls who have endured Highland Park's
questionable government for so many years would get a kick out of
seeing the absurdity of the situation so brazenly ridiculed.
But while humor figures in prominently, the core of the movie is rooted
in reality, and so things aren't crazy silly like you might expect from
a satire. This is mostly a quiet movie, and while there are a couple of
really good zingers, it is for the most part serious. So if, like me,
you're a Parker Posey fan from her hilarious Christopher Guest roles
("Best in Show", "Waiting for Guffman", "A Mighty Wind"), you might be
disappointed at not finding that here. The humor here felt a little
uneven at times, probably because they were balancing against a pretty
serious & powerful statement. I think they found a good balance; too
much comedy would've watered down the message while too much
seriousness would've been plain boring.
One minor criticism I have is that a few interesting subplots weren't
explored fully, and their resolution seemed a bit rushed and
unsatisfying. But there's really a lot going on, and the main plot
flows well and has a nice punch to it.
I can't think of too many movies like this, definitely not any
blockbuster hits since this is pretty low-key and that's part of its
charm. "Highland Park" is one of those films that poses a rhetorical
"what if" question that makes you think hard about your own life. Other
offbeat films that pose similar questions include "The Brass Teapot"
about a young couple that finds a magic teapot which gives them money
every time they hurt themselves, then there's "Lucky" about a serial
killer who wins the lottery, and finally I'm reminded (mostly by Danny
Glover's endearing character) about the movie "The Maiden Heist" about
3 lonely, middle-aged security guards at a museum who decide to each
steal their favorite work of art.
All of these movies I've mentioned, as well as "Highland Park" of
course, are worth checking out if you enjoy obscure, non-formulaic
films. The message can be either deeply inspiring or somewhat deflating
depending on how you see things. It reminds me of a scene in this movie
where Danny Glover's wife says "Some people are inspired while others
are revolted" and she shows him a newspaper whose headline reads "Some
people inspired! Others revolted!" Haha, definitely a fun flick.
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