Grand Theft Parsons

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Movie Review by EDF

Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Christina Applegate, Michael Shannon, Robert Forster
Director: David Caffrey

When is a true story not a true story? The answer is only when the story is turned into a movie. Nearly all true-life movies have taken artistic liberties on the actual real event. That is fine, as we all know that in reality movies are not real. Which brings me to this odd movie, about not the life but the events after the death of country rock star Gram Parsons. There is a note at the start of the movie that states that there are elements of fiction mixed with the story. At least they are being honest about it.

Shot in 24 days, this bizarre story, set in 1973, starts with Gram Parsons death from a fatal overdose. His road manager Phil Kaufman (Johnny Knoxville) is given the bad news and he proceeds to fulfil a promise he made to Gram that whoever should die first, the other would cremate the body in Joshua Tree National Park. After a funny attempt to grab the body from the local Hospital, Kaufman hires stoner Larry Oster-Berg (Michael Shannon), a hippy with a hearse, to help him. This is where things go slightly wrong. First of all, the hearse is yellow, painted with peace signs and flowers and secondly Kaufman does not inform Oster-Berg that they are carting around a dead body.

If things were not bad enough, Gram Parsons’ gold-digging ex-girlfriend Barbara (Christina Applegate) is out to prove, without the proper death certificate, that Parsons had left everything to her. On top of that Gram Parsons’ father Stanley (Robert Forster) flies into Los Angeles airport to pick up his son’s body, which gets taken away from right under his nose. Add to it that the police are also out looking for him, this turns into a strange jaunt but can Kaufman fulfil the promise he made?

While this story seems a little far-fetched, most of it is true. Johnny Knoxville is a surprise revelation in this movie and matching him up with Michael Shannon makes them one of the most watchable duos I have seen recently in cinema. At times the humour borders on Cheech and Chong territory due to some of the crazy situations they find themselves in. The wonderful Christina Applegate plays the fictitious Barbara, a character that seems totally out of place within the structure of the movie. The character does not do much to push what little plot there is forward. There is a real lack of emotional pull towards the characters task but both Knoxville and Shannon do their best from a script that could have offered a lot more.

4 out of 6 stars