1h 52min | Crime, Drama, Mystery | 11 October 2005 (USA)
A young boy who lives in a dysfunctional home went to the carnival and met a singer. Shortly after, a murder took place. The town’s sheriff is seeking answers. The singer is trying to escape her environment so is the boy. But both has to face their own horror.
I was fortunate enough to see this film twice – both the premier screening and it’s subsequent showing both at the Raindance Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Jury Prize – Best Film. Unfortunately the sound was a bit problematic at the premier, due to a dodgy speaker (front left – the side I was sitting on) and so seeing it again really made a big difference to the film for me.
Karen Black (playing both religious mother called Eleanor, and a circus singer called Sandra) was wonderful in her dual roles, and Mike Patton I felt was more convincing as David (Eleanor’s abusive alcoholic eldest son) than as Frank – the owner/manager of the circus.
The story centers around the disappearance and suspected murder of David, which is investigated by the Sheriff Ed (really well played by Susan Traylor), but also deals with the various unhealthy, abusive and controlling relationships that exist between the characters. The one relationship that seems to be nothing more than friendship is between Jimmy (Eleanor’s youngest son) and Sandra, as they each strive for their own freedom from their abusive lives.
Eleanor tries to maintain normality in her family – despite her husbands declining health and David’s abuse of Jimmy. Sandra strives for a normal life, to return home
and escape the circus, particularly the abusive Frank. The question is will they be successful?
Visually the film is quite beautiful – the opening shot of the prairie burning is just one example of the wonderful cinematography. A viewer might also recall “Pleasantville” in the film’s use of B+W and Colour – the circus is always in colour, the town in black and white. It turns out to be quite a useful convention, on a number of levels, and does help to structure the story for the viewer.
I loved this film, mainly for the performance of Karen Black as Eleanor/Sandra, the visual feast of the beautiful cinematography, and the excellently plotted storyline (which is based on true events).
Director: Steve Balderson
Writers: Steve Balderson, Clark Balderson (translation)
Stars: Karen Black, Mike Patton, Susan Traylor
Release Date: 11 October 2005 (USA)
Also Known As: Firecracker
Filming Locations: Black Hills, South Dakota, USA