25 March 2014 | rooprect
Can you believe Highland Park is a real place?
The city of Highland Park, Michigan is one of those places whose Google Earth pictures are blurry because the Google van was tearing ass to get out of there in one piece.
Seriously, that's one rough looking neighborhood. Smack in the middle of Detroit, the city's appeal is not helped by the fact that the corrupt politicians in charge of the city somehow managed to make over $20 million dollars disappear in the 90s, even though the city's population is barely 100,000. None of this is specifically in the movie (at least not real names), but you can't help but wonder how much of this satirical comedy is fact.
"Highland Park" the movie is a great experience, not necessarily laugh-out-loud-funny nor edge-of-seat entertaining, but the themes and quirky characters are really fun to explore. Great acting by everyone, particularly Danny Glover who plays a cluelessly superstitious old dreamer, keeps your attention from start to finish.
I won't say much about the plot, but let me put it this way... How would you be affected if you suddenly won the lottery? Would you embrace life? Be a better person? Would you change the world in a positive way? And now let me ask you: are you already doing any of those things? If you are, that's awesome. You will enjoy this film. It's an interesting character study of how people are affected by money and how it brings out their true(?) nature.
"Highland Park" focuses on 6 downtrodden friends who, every week for 10 years, play the same numbers in the lottery hoping to win big and change their sagging lives. Much like the city of Highland Park, they each have tremendous potential, but they're just stuck in a rut.
Parker Posey plays one of her signature wacky roles as the bimbo Mayor of Highland Park, an ex-homecoming queen who's just one Gucci away from trailer park trash. She keeps cutting the budget (things like education, parks, sewer cleanup) in favor of "sexy" projects like malls and things for her rich cronies. The satire is delightful, and I imagine that the unlucky souls who have endured Highland Park's questionable government for so many years would get a kick out of seeing the absurdity of the situation so brazenly ridiculed.
But while humor figures in prominently, the core of the movie is rooted in reality, and so things aren't crazy silly like you might expect from a satire. This is mostly a quiet movie, and while there are a couple of really good zingers, it is for the most part serious. So if, like me, you're a Parker Posey fan from her hilarious Christopher Guest roles ("Best in Show", "Waiting for Guffman", "A Mighty Wind"), you might be disappointed at not finding that here. The humor here felt a little uneven at times, probably because they were balancing against a pretty serious & powerful statement. I think they found a good balance; too much comedy would've watered down the message while too much seriousness would've been plain boring.
One minor criticism I have is that a few interesting subplots weren't explored fully, and their resolution seemed a bit rushed and unsatisfying. But there's really a lot going on, and the main plot flows well and has a nice punch to it.
I can't think of too many movies like this, definitely not any blockbuster hits since this is pretty low-key and that's part of its charm. "Highland Park" is one of those films that poses a rhetorical "what if" question that makes you think hard about your own life. Other offbeat films that pose similar questions include "The Brass Teapot" about a young couple that finds a magic teapot which gives them money every time they hurt themselves, then there's "Lucky" about a serial killer who wins the lottery, and finally I'm reminded (mostly by Danny Glover's endearing character) about the movie "The Maiden Heist" about 3 lonely, middle-aged security guards at a museum who decide to each steal their favorite work of art.
All of these movies I've mentioned, as well as "Highland Park" of course, are worth checking out if you enjoy obscure, non-formulaic films. The message can be either deeply inspiring or somewhat deflating depending on how you see things. It reminds me of a scene in this movie where Danny Glover's wife says "Some people are inspired while others are revolted" and she shows him a newspaper whose headline reads "Some people inspired! Others revolted!" Haha, definitely a fun flick.