Cinetopia Reviews: Rich Hill

Greg reviews Rich Hill, a little film that struggles to get its point across. 

"I'm sorry, grammaw. I didn't
mean to eat the last Moon Pie."

Rich Hill is one of the bigger disappointments of the festival. And I’m not quite sure where this went wrong. Following three boys living in the lower middle class of a Midwestern town, Rich Hill is filled with gorgeous imagery. But, its commentary is rarely focused and even more rarely interesting. It’s like Gummo in better living conditions, with less interesting film making and less cat killings. 

Directors Andrew Palermo and Tracy Tragos may have good intentions with the creation of the film. I believe they'd been wanting to create a film that shows the support that family brings to a rough situation. These two directors supposedly came from this town and know how rough it was to be there and are considered lucky to have made it off as well as they did. To get their point across, it would require sympathy from the audience to the situation of their subjects. While the kids have our complete sympathy, the fault does not lie within the bad financial situation of the town. 

That is where the fault of the film lies, along with the fault of their situation: the parents of the kids. They have resources. They have skills. They have potential to make money. To say otherwise would be outright false. They just use their resources, skills, and potential poorly. The father of one of the boys, the one who will probably have the best future, keeps getting jobs, but decides to change lifestyles every now and again out of boredom. Because of this, they can’t get out of the style of living they’re in. When the kid says something along the lines of, “It’s his life to live,” I became even more frustrated. Neither this kid nor the rest of his family will ever try to get the father to change his life style for their betterment as a whole. 

"I'll take a grilled cheese
and some meth please."
This type of ordeal is common among all three of the kids’ lives, and it makes the audience apathetic to other aspects of their non-functioning situation. Obviously we don’t blame them, but it makes the film unfocused, as it doesn’t seem like the point is the kids anymore, making the audience question why they are watching in the first place. Is the point supposed to be commentary on the parents? It doesn’t really feel like it. Is it simply attempting to bring the audience into these people’s everyday lives? I hope not. Because they’re not particularly interesting. 

Having said that, Rich Hill is shot in a gorgeous manner. One of the perks of having lived there is that the directors  know where the beauty lies. If their idea was to find that beauty in this rather melancholy town, they did a superb job. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to convince myself that it was their goal.

-Greg Dinskisk

The Cinetopia International Film Festival is an Ann Arbor and Detroit based film festival that took place from June 4th to the 8th where there were 110 screenings of about 50 films in 10 venues. Created for the people of southeastern Michigan, the Cinetopia International Film Festival features the best feature-length dramas, comedies, and documentaries from the world’s best film festivals (e.g. Sundance, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, SXSW, Tribeca, etc.). The extensive festival program is selected exclusively for Cinetopia by a team that includes Indiewire Influencer Russ Collins (from the Michigan Theater) and the national “dean” of art house programming Elliot Wilhelm (from the Detroit Film Theatre). Cinetopia honors the rich heritage of cinematic culture and Michigan’s proud legacy of outstanding cinema artists through special pre- and post-film events, including presentations, discussion panels, and Q&A sessions with directors, writers, and stars.