Milwaukee, Minnesota

Milwaukee, Minnesota

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Few acting enterprises are more difficult—or more rife with pitfalls—than embodying a mentally challenged character, and Troy Garity proves himself ill-equipped to the challenge as Albert, the cognitively slow protagonist of Allan Mindel’s amateurish Milwaukee, Minnesota. Albert is a champion ice fisherman because he can “hear” the fish speaking to him from under the ice, and his acute listening skills are also a vital component of his relationship with mom Edna (Debra Monk), an abusive and controlling figure who discourages her son from engaging in “independent thinking” and uses cruel threats of abandonment to obtain filial obedience. After his mother’s untimely death, and because of his hefty winnings, mystical idiot Albert becomes an attractive target for two competing grifter factions: Randy Quaid’s ruddy-faced Jerry James, a slimy salesman claiming to be Albert’s dead father, and brother and sister duo Stan (Hank Harris) and Tuey (Alison Folland), who plans to use her sexual wiles (and a cockamamie identity as a Time magazine reporter) to swindle the fish listener out of his hard-earned cash. Even if it weren’t scripted as a soggy tribute to the noble naïveté of this innocent moron, Mindel’s film—its title a reference to the insignificance of its sleepy, frigid Wisconsin setting—would still be a blundering debacle full of barely conceived characters (including Bruce Dern’s copy shop owner Mr. McNally, whose secret identity is so obvious it hurts), incessant use of mirrors as a visual device, excruciating narration delivered by Garity in a soft, simple-minded cadence, and mortifying dialogue (such as when Albert says of dearly departed mom, “She’s like da fishes now. Under da ice and snow”). Garity mercifully refrains from the tic-heavy mannerisms of Sean Penn in I Am Sam or the cute quirkiness of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, but his Albert, with a confused, beatific smile regularly affixed to his face, is nonetheless depicted as a man-child whose intellectual dullness is a sign of saintliness. Though, with the minor exception of Jerry and Tuey, recognizing each other’s designs on Albert’s money, smiling wickedly through a dinner together—as well as an amusing cameo by Josh Brolin as a transvestite’s g-string-wearing bodyguard—it’s Milwaukee, Minnesota that turns out to be, as Tuey might put it, mildly “retarded.”

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DVD
Distributor
Tartan Films
Runtime
95 min
Rating
R
Year
2003
Director
Allan Mindel
Screenwriter
Richard Murphy
Cast
Troy Garity, Alison Folland, Randy Quaid, Bruce Dern, Hank Harris, Debra Monk, Josh Brolin, Holly Woodlawn