WHO TOOK JOHNNY is an examination into an infamous thirty-year-old cold case: the disappearance of Iowa paperboy Johnny Gosch, the first missing child to appear on a milk carton. The film ... See full summary »
Journalism icon Gay Talese reports on Gerald Foos, the owner of a Colorado motel, who allegedly secretly watched his guests with the aid of specially designed ceiling vents, peering down from an "observation platform" he built in the motel's attic.
I knew of the director of this film (Sean Dunne) from his film American Juggalo, which a depressingly frank observation on those at an ICP gathering. It was a film that was strong in the way that it didn't judge or narrate but just let the people speak for themselves. The approach is the same here as a small crew head onto the parking lots and public spaces of Florida to meet Floridians hanging around.
I've not been to Florida, but don't really have any desire to do so – not least because if there is a 'crazy thing happened' or 'hapless criminal' story in the news, it often seems to be from Florida. This film seems to have an eye for characters who fit that sort of mold, but it doesn't set out to make a joke of them or mock them for being oddballs (which, frankly, they all are). Instead it treats them with a dignity that they probably don't wholly deserve – an approach that makes the film more engaging as a result. It is also tragic though, and many of those featured certainly have substance abuse issues or mental health problems; so it is troubling to watch them potter away from camera muttering to themselves.
Technically the film is not particularly polished. This is partly understandable given the way it was made, but it does still have a good look to it. The presence of the boom in the shot is so consistent that some wag created an IMDb credit for it (although the pendant in me notes that it should be 'uncredited'). This is a little off putting, but it is the heart of the film which makes it worth seeing, and it is an engaging, depressing, and interesting experience.
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