review by Elias Savada, 31 August 2001

After their compelling breakthrough Twin Falls Idaho two summers ago, I was  hoping for another small gem from the Polish brothers, Michael and Mark.  Unfortunately the pacing that troubled their first effort slows to a mournful  crawl in Jackpot, a temperamental attraction of roadside trials and  tribulations.  The opening credits suggest a karaoke machine's sing-a-long  lyrics, but Jackpot's song skips about the countryside never hitting fulls  groove. The titular Nevada town in this second chapter of a planned bleak  Midwestern trilogy project is a dusty destination "just south" of the initial  film, but it's even further removed from being an enjoyable movie.  Competitive karaoke characters littered the cinema-goer's landscape after  last year's poorly received road movie Duets, and Jackpot should bury the  sub-genre, if not the entire "sport." The only truly fascinating aspect of  the film (outside of a fine performance by SNL alum Garrett Morris) is the  cinematography by M. David Mullen, using not film stock, but a new  high-definition 24P camcorder from Sony, a wide frame format that, when  transferred to film for theatrical release, is nearly impossible to  distinguish from a Kodak or Fuji original. As the first feature shot with  this camera, it's stunning to see the digital leap we'll see in greater  detail with the next Star Wars chapter.

Technological advances aside, Sunny Holiday/Glen Allan Johnson (co-producer  Jon Gries) is a musty road warrior in search of fame, fortune, and a settled  stomach at the expense of his foul-mouthed wife Bobbi (Daryl Hannah). As a  country-and-western boy with a heart of fool's gold, he abandons his family  for a nine-month, 43-city excursion in a 1983 pink Chrysler accompanied by an  overly-optimistic manager Les Irving (Morris) who offers his disciple the  competitive advantage of his fiercely honed managerial expertise (having once  ran a 32-unit apartment building). But their American dream is more a  cut-rate rainbow's end of bottomless bar-hopping, salty one-night stands, and  life expanding playgrounds (as championed by Patrick Bauchau's cassette tape  ramblings) of missed opportunities than a road to glory. Their pot of gold is  just a trunkful of Mixmasters and other home appliances won as consolation  prizes, which share space with jugs of E-Z Solution, a "concentration"  (emphasis in the con) soap they shill for expenses. If any award money  happens their way, they celebrate with a rare night of "comfort" in a motel  room. Sunny, realizing he can't afford child support for his adorably  innocent young daughter, instead sends lottery tickets back to his wife.  Needless to say, he's not a terribly endearing individual. Such is the  monotonous journey for the celebrity wannabe and his Sancho Panza sidekick.  The ride grows tiring as they hop from one dreary road stop to the next, the  occasional groupies useful as disposable sexual aids.

Morris, who did a marvelous spin as a neighborly savior in Twin Falls Idaho,  dons a beguiling mask as a wrongheaded Don King bartering songs and dreaming  of million-dollar contracts and his client's platinum records filling  Wal-Mart bins. Like a thankless Baptist minister, his character exhorts Sunny  as if the lad is a lost flock (looking at the karaoke monitors certainly  takes points off your score), forever straying from the prize ahead.  Unfortunately the Lord is not listening or decides to steer clear of this  lost cause. "Until you pay me 15% of your earnings, I'm only going to take  15% of your shit," he offers his lame horse, a remark you expect he's offered  up countless times.

Aside from Gries and Morris and perhaps Hannah, the remaining cast is offered  only brief walk-ons of screen time. Adam Baldwin is a mysterious journalist  supposedly interested in Sunny's career. Peggy Lipton registers well as a  self conscious waitress who gets the short end of a romantic evening with  Sunny, then sarcastically wonders, after he offers her a "discount" on some  of the cleaning solvent, "Why are you trying to fuck me twice." Mac Davis is  Sammy Bones, a competitor on the circuit, while ER's Anthony Edwards pops up  as Sunny's child-like brother Tracy just as Jackpot wears out its 100-minute  frame.

There are fleeting specks of inspiration along the film's roadside. A sign  proclaims "You Suck 100 Miles" in the glare of a car's headlights. The  filmmakers play around with the temporal settings suggesting a feeling of  déjà vu or double depression. But you're still stuck with a sense of  desolation in life's backroads…of sadness, emptiness, and melancholy. And  that's probably somewhere near Melancholy, Oklahoma.

Click here to read Cynthia Fuchs' interview.

Directed by:
Michael Polish

Jon Gries 
Daryl Hanna
 Garrett Morris 
Adam Baldwin 
Peggy Lipton 
Mac David 
Crystal Bernard
Camillia Clouse 
Rick Overton Anthony Edwards

Written by:
Mark Polish 
Michael Polish

R - Restricted
Under 17 requires
parent or adult







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