1½ stars (out of four)
Everyone seems to be playing someone else in Allan Mindel's full-of-potential, slight-of-script "Milwaukee, Minnesota."
As Albert, a mentally challenged young man with an ice fishing gift, Troy Garity channelssuccessfullyDustin Hoffman's autistic man with a numbers gift in "Rain Man"; as a sexy, blond hustler, Alison Folland reaches for Patricia Arquette's hooker turn in "True Romance"; and as a greasy con man, Randy Quaid moves and sounds a whole hell of a lot like Kevin Spacey, pre-Bobby Darin.
Even the look of the film, though handsome, seems swiped from another time and place, as Mindel fills his Milwaukee suburb with SRO motels, transvestites and the not-hipster variety of thrift-store corduroy and flannel. Everything's either crusty brown, like Quaid's '70s suit, or snow.
And snow is what Albert likes best. He's won hundreds of thousands of dollars at ice fishing tournaments, where he masters the patient sport by listening to the fish, ear to ice. Albert's momchaperones him to competitions, and then sits on him every other second of every other day. His only release from mom's suffocating grip is work at Mr. McNally's copy shop, where Albert is allowed to deal with the customers.
When mom is suddenly killed in a hit-and-run, Albert's left to fend for himselfpractically calling hustlers out from their dens. There's Tuey (Folland) and her brother/partner-in-petty-crime Stan (Hank Harris), who sidle up to Albert, hoping to sweet-talk him out of his prize money. (Stan, always a little drowsy, thinks he's in Minnesota, not Wisconsin, hence the movie's title.) And then there's Jerry James (Quaid), who rolls into town, claiming to be Albert's long-lost dad and promising the kid a high life in Chicago.
Predictably, Albert gets taken and then gets wise, finding a well of strength and courage he never knew existed.
There's also a subplot with McNally (Bruce Dern), who may or may not have an unusual connection, which Tuey may or may not figure out through a hokey, well-placed photo that may or may not help everything fall into place so neatly you may or may not gag.
The real shame here is Garity, who, overcoming the burden and blessing of heritagehe's the son of Jane Fonda and Tom Haydengives a fine performance, nuanced and emotional and better than everyone bumbling around him.
Maybe if Mindel had focused more on his characters, less on the silly "noir" trickery, his film would do Garity justice. As it is, go find better work, kid.
Directed by Allan Mindel; written by R.D. Murphy; photographed by Bernd Heinl; edited by David Rawlins; production designed by Dina Goldman; music by Michael Convertino, Robert Muzingo; produced by Mindel, Michael J. Brody and Jeff Kirshbaum. A Tartan Films release; opens Friday at Facets Cinematheque. Running time: 1:35. MPAA rating: R (language, sexual content, some violence and brief drug use).
Albert - Troy Garity
Tuey - Alison Folland
Stan - Hank Harris
Jerry James - Randy Quaid
Sean McNally - Bruce Dern