The name of the film is "Logan Lucky." I don't know that a funny and hugely entertaining film could be more inappropriately named. Stephen Soderbergh's delightful new film opens in area theaters Thursday. (See the review in Thursday's Gusto.) It has been quite aptly described as a kind of redneck version of something in Soderbergh's "Oceans 11" franchise. In other words, it's a satisfying mega-million movie set during a big NASCAR race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Its stars are Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as a couple of ne'er-do-well, hard luck brothers in need of money who concoct a plan to steal a ton of the stuff when the big local speedway is in the middle of a tornado of green stuff.
Here is where the film's luck collapsed during the horrors over the weekend.
The film is genuinely trying to make a populist audience connection between the kind of "elitist" Hollywood caper flick that stars Tatum and even current James Bond Daniel Craig and the sort of Southern crowd that would gather at a big NASCAR blowout in North Carolina in the first place. On a different weekend its success in doing so would have been nothing but notable.
But among the major horrors that reminded us over the weekend of major American dysfunctions, there is in this movie the minor, but noteworthy, damage events could do to a worthy attempt at unifying American movie audiences.
There's no question that the film is full of gentle, good-natured mockery of the sort of knucklehead culture that we call "redneck" but it's all very sympathetic -- more so, even, than a Jeff Foxworthy "You May Be a Redneck If (filll in the blank)" routine.
The dead giveaway of its unification ambitions is its complex caper film ending, where you find out everyone's true bottom line allegiances and ultimate roles in this huge heist. Suddenly in the soundtrack we hear the purest and most genuinely populist of all '60's "protest" anthems -- Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son." ("Some folks are born/ made to raise the flag/Oooh-they're red white and blue/And when the band plays 'Hail to the Chief'/ooh they point the cannon at you, Lord./It ain't me, it ain't me. I ain't no senator's son, son/It ain't me. It ain't me. I ain't no fortunate one.")
That's prominent in the soundtrack to a film from the guy who directed "Erin Brockovich" and 'Traffic" and any number of other films bursting with disgust at capitalist greed and rapacity from the victim's viewpoint.
And then, over last weekend, the streets of Charlottesville, Va. were full of polo shirted, tiki torch Nazis (blogger Alan Bedenko's awfully good epithet "citronella fascists") protesting those of different complexion or self-evident ancestries in a different part of Europe. One of their number, a disturbed 20-year old neo-Nazi from Ohio, took it upon himself to aim his Dodge Challenger at a crowd of counter-protesters and floor it, thereby killing 32-year old paralegal Heather Heyer, whose name deserves to be remembered long after her murderer's is forgotten.
It was a weekend where those who possessed recognizably American ideals couldn't have been clearer -- and those who didn't were even clearer than that. It was a polarizing weekend that revealed how sickeningly magnetic those extreme poles are to people whose pretense is that they are "disenfranchised" and whose only "remedy" is to disenfranchise others, if not actually kill them.
And then there's Soderbergh, an authentic master American filmmaker -- both artist and entertainer -- in all of his supremely gifted innocence postulating in a film, that all such violent and horrific socio-economic polarities are meaningless, that precious few of us indeed are "fortunate sons." We are more likely fodder to have cannons pointing at us. We all belong together in the same megaplex enjoying his movies.
Watching a fantasy of our brethren indulging in a Robin Hoodish fantasy should have been a near-universal, unambiguous megaplex pleasure.
And it is. Except that all those good-natured redneck jokes coming from such conspicuously elitist Hollywoodians can't be made completely without social cost after Charlottesville's Weekend in Hell. Isn't that the polarity that was exploited -- those "suffering" from "elitist" disrespect?
That, I repeat, is not at all a lucky movie, however richly enjoyable it is in a primal CCR kind of way. It's a movie in which some of the best and most generous among us pretend to pass through society as if they were some of the worst.
But when the old killer polarities were reawakened so brutally, we learned that nothing on this earth can disguise what is genuinely vile among us.
In a dreadful sense, maybe we all really are "fortunate sons" indeed. Lord only knows where society is going. But we know Soderbergh's where movie fantasies are going and thank heaven for the trip.