Robert Scott Wildes’ dreamlike desert fable “Poor Boy” opens with a loose, rambling sequence that’s like a cinéma vérité version of “Cops.” It’s funny — a pair of police officers interrogate a pair of debauched brothers and a screaming woman about the case of an allegedly stolen lawn mower — but also lyrical, quite beautiful and somehow, riveting.
“Poor Boy” is the story of these brothers (Lou Taylor Pucci and Dov Tiefenbach) and their surreal odyssey to buy a boat, or get a girlfriend, or make it to California — their motivations are often scattered. Most of all, they want money, and Wilde’s film is less about the plot, which is loose, obtuse and meandering, and more about the images and aesthetic; this environment and its energy.
Samson (Tiefenbach) is the sensitive soul buffeted by domineering women. As the alpha brother, Romeo, wild, fun and charmingly manipulative, Pucci is transformed by a long, blond beard. His fully inhabited performance deserves a more structured story to really shine, but he’s essential to the film and its grainy VHS-style interstitials. Michael Shannon, playing the brothers’ mysterious rodeo clown father, intones a voice-over about hustling, kicking up a ruckus and the cosmic spirituality of the universe.
Despite its frustrating lack of narrative cohesion, there’s something intoxicating about the vibe of “Poor Boy.” It’s a world you want to explore more, and Pucci’s Romeo is a character worth falling in love with.
Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood