Jimmy Pool’s (Ken Roht) last drunken rampage landed him in jail for three years. Upon his release, he comes to find that very little has changed. His partner Tyler (Jeffrey Watkins), faithful as ever, is there to pick him up from prison, provide him with clothes and a warm bed. Ty is there to be his rock, the same way Ty always has been. Jimmy’s band is still rehearsing in the old barn, seemingly, waiting for his return. His favorite bar still serves him all the whiskey he can pay for, even though liquor and a bad temper landed Jimmy in the clink the last time. The folks around town still love him and insist that they’ve missed his music. It seems that there is nothing much for Jimmy to do, except pick up where he left off.
But things have changed during his incarceration. His partner’s son, Mark (William Nicol), has grown into a man, and turned out to be one fine singer/songwriter. And Mark has married God-fearing, self-righteous Christian Darlene (Sienna Beckman), a young woman determined to rehabilitate Mark out of the damaging effects of an upbringing surrounded by sin.
The push-pull of who will be the leader of the band - a band that is only still about because of efforts by Mark - begins, putting Ty in the middle. But Jimmy knows that Ty subconsciously loves to play the martyr. Why should he give up leadership of the band he built, just because he went away for a while? Or is the band what is really the most important thing in his life?
Filmmaker / leading man Ken Roht loves this community to a fault; almost to the detriment of the film. It is wonderful to see Americana up close the way the film shows it. It’s heartening and downright refreshing to see so few judgmental folks in Middle America. However, the film could be significantly tighter. The extra fifteen minutes Roht takes to let the songs or the musical numbers play out feels a bit indulgent.
Yes, this is a dramatic film with music, but the first duty of any artist: do not bore your audience. It felt distinctly at if he were given permission to film the events contingent on seeing them in their entirety. Or perhaps, in wearing so many hats in this project (Roht is writer, director, editor and leading man), Roht has not developed the “distance” needed to “kill his darlings.” The film needs a smart, judicious editor who can trim the fat without effecting the deliberate pacing that is indicative of “country life.”
OK, that was the biggest critique. Now for the good stuff.
Solid acting. While I didn’t feel that there were any breakout performances, each member of the cast was a perfectly crafted piece of this beautiful moving mosaic of small town life. The music was wholesome and sweet, the kind that only local folk can love – simple, not overly sophisticated, or overly produced. Just right for the earnest lives these characters are trying to live. I particularly enjoyed the supper song.
While the story seemed to reboot a couple times, I kinda like that quality in this film. I like when a filmmaker give his audience the job of trusting whatever fork in the road the film takes. While the story is centers around Jimmy Pool and his journey, the other characters in the film each have journey of their own, and never at the expense of the central character. For my money, the most interesting bits were given to recovering addict and forsaken ex-wife Lacy, played brilliantly by Charla Cochran.
Perfect Cowboy is an official selection of the 32nd Outfest LGBT Film Festival happening now thru July 20, 2014.