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But Where Are You Tomorrow?

Bloody-nose-empty-pockets-movie-review
Utopia

MOVIE REVIEW
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (2020)

Brothers-directors Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross decided to document the final 24 hours of a Las Vegas dive bar by simply (apparently) by parking their film crew in the middle of it and watching what unfurled around them. When they realized one of the regulars, a former actor named Michael Martin, was actually reading Eugene O’Neill, they must have wept with joy. Of course, there’s every chance that was staged, as every interaction with a pontificating drunk is for effect. Of course people aware of a camera will alter their behavior, but the heightened emotions could just be down to the all-day drinking, too. For the most part, it doesn’t really matter. Simply hanging out with them like this gives a sense of this place and these people that a larger scale or an ordinary day would not quite have achieved. For once, the effect of a slightly blurred reality absolutely works.

Of course, that all depends on your tolerance for listening to people chatting shit. Most of the people in this place have seen better days, and are wearing their hard times on their faces (although not, in one memorable example, in their other body parts). Several are veterans, from Vietnam down, who have clearly struggled badly on return to normal life. Several have lost people – sons, wives, mothers – and their grief is very close to the surface. Several have a sharp wit and painful insight into their fellow drinking that needs interventions from the bar staff: Marc Paradis, the day bartender, has a big belly, a bigger beard, a soothing tenor voice and a sharp line in deprecating humor. Shay Walker, the night bartender, has a teenage son hanging out in the alley with his friends and the ability to charm or chivvy the mostly male clientele into doing what she wants. The drinking is serious – a few people have to be sent home, or to sleep it off on the sofas – and the drugs are recreational but pretty heavy going as well. The chance for sex or violence are very close for everyone in the room, but it mostly seems to be the chance that everyone is mainly interested in. The main focus is on the drinking, in a place where everyone knows your name.

The movie is a tone poem about a place where the people have bottomed out, maybe don’t like themselves very much, but like to be in a place that accepts them as they are and knows they won’t change for the better. It’s a feeling hard to describe, but if you’ve spent any amount of time with people who drink at breakfast, you know it exactly. It’s a sense of failure and of resignation about the failure because something has been broken that cannot be fixed. There’s a lot of humor in the resignation, but there’s a lot of pain and grief, too – it’s pretty clear no one in that room wanted their lives to work out this way, but since it has they are going to try to have a good time as best they can while they can. While we’re all on lockdown and casual socializing remains, for the moment, an impossible dream, a night in this movie is a pretty good substitute.

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