1½ stars (out of four)
"Iowa," a Chicago premiere, is a flashy-looking low-budget indie about drugs, love and crime in small-town Iowa. But, speaking as an ex-small-town Midwesterner, I found it hard to buy.
Writer-director-star Matt Farnsworth, making his directorial feature debut, presents the town as a contemporary hellhole out of one of David Lynch's lesser nightmares, mixed with doses of Quentin Tarantino, "Requiem for a Dream" and a weird "Clockwork Orange" allusion (Farnsworth's bowler hat). An ex-Midwesterner whose family home is in Centerville, Iowa, Farnsworth plays Esper Harte, an angry young outsider slated to inherit his dad's life insurance swag. Along with his lover, Donna--played by Farnsworth's wife and co-producer Diane Foster--Esper starts up a crystal methamphetamine business that puts him on the bad side of his loose-living mom, Effie (Rosanna Arquette), her crooked parole officer boyfriend, Larry (Michael T. Weiss), and Donna's dad, Irv (John Savage), not to mention the audience.
Director Farnsworth has an eye for landscapes and a taste for the bizarre--and wife Foster has real camera presence. But, next time out, he needs to find a writer or co-writer. Despite a loose semi-factual inspiration, "Iowa's" script is a mish-mash of familiar cinematic would-be jolts and shocks that don't convince for a more than a moment or two. Also, for a movie about crystal meth, the actors' pace is sometimes torpid.
Runs Fri.-Thu. at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. Call 773-281-4114 or visit www.facets.org/cinematheque.No MPAA rating. Adult (for nudity, sexuality, language, drugs and violence).Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times