Sundance Review: Chronic Town
by Alex Billington
January 22, 2008
Chronic Town is an interesting indie film about the isolated and crazed life of one individual in Alaska. I was honestly surprised by how great this was especially for first time director Tom Hines. Everything about Chronic Town is incredibly solid: the acting, the directing, the script and dialogue, the story, but if only Hines would have hired an actual cinematographer, it wouldn't have looked like a film made on my parent's video camera.
Set in freezing cold Fairbanks, Alaska, Chronic Town is about a chain-smoking, alcoholic cab driver named Truman (JR Bourne) who is dumped by his girlfriend while driving her home home. His response is to get wasted with double vodkas and trip acid, but he ends up with a bad trip and nearly kills himself. As he recovers in the hospital, Truman is put into a psychological therapy group for "loonies" where he meets a stripper and befriends an elderly lady at a retirement home. Here's where the marijuana comes in. Truman's elderly friend's son grows the best weed in Fairbanks and in freezing cold and boring Alaska, there's nothing better to do than smoke grass. What Chronic Town is really about is that dark period in time where Truman's life changes forever.
JR Bourne as Truman is an inspired casting choice and absolutely genius, which is amazing considering this is a film from a first-time director and I wouldn't typically expect anyone great in this. But like Paulo Costanzo in Everything's Gone Green, JR's performance is what really stands out and actually helps this film breathe so deeply. It's such an honest exploration and JR encompasses that character perfectly. Don't be fooled, this isn't a quaint drama about life, it's a dark and vicious film about the more brutal side of humanity. And if it weren't for the awful cinematography, this would be higher on my scale for an otherwise great script and great cast.