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Bombay Beach Review

By David Kempler

This Beach Should Be Bombed

When I attended the Tribeca Film Festival, I was most looking forward to viewing was the documentary, "Bombay Beach". The short synopsis that was provided in advance had me chomping at the bit. It was presented as an examination of a small town in California that was once ticketed as the next great vacation spot, but had instead fallen upon exceedingly hard times. The focus would be on those that now live there, in a place that had fallen far short of expectations. Sounded like a big winner to me. But then I saw it.

Alma Har'el's vision presents us with a community overridden in poverty in a desert near the Salton Sea. Where luxury hotels were expected, run-down trailer homes sit. They are occupied by people who have no illusions of ever getting out of their hell, and one of the characters refers to everyone there as the misfits of the world.

A couple of residents are the stars of "Bombay Beach". The Parrish family consists of parents who have both been in jail for possession of explosives, and their kids who at times you can't help but feel for. At other times I couldn't have cared less about them. Then there's Cee Jay, the young man with athletic potential who represents the only hope on display at all. And let's not forget Red, an elderly gent who sells cigarettes and clings to a life that would depress the biggest optimist on the planet.

The most confounding character is Barry, the young son of the Parrish family. He is a troubled kid that is being treated with all sorts of medications and it is hard to not imagine him becoming a major troublemaker at some point in the future. Somehow, the scenes with Barry didn't quite work. They evoked no feelings from me, either towards the child's plight, or disgust at his lack of likeability.

That is the biggest problem I had with "Bombay Beach". I didn't dislike anyone. I didn't like anyone. I just didn't care what happened to the whole bunch of them. However, and it's a big however, "Bombay Beach" copped the prize for Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival. Color me stunned. So, you can believe the people that chose it as a winner, or you can listen to me. I'm admittedly biased, but I'm going with me.

What did you think?

Movie title
Release year 2010
MPAA Rating NR
Our rating
Summary The next great vacation spot devolves into loserville, in this documentary that is unable to evoke feelings of any sort from the audience.
View all articles by David Kempler
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