Monday, September 21, 2020

Gutterbug Review: An Emotional Human Journey of Homelessness, Self Medication, and Rebellion



Release date: September 9, 2020 (VOD)
Running time: 101 minutes
Starring: Andrew Yackel, Justin Pietropaolo, Hannah Mosqueda

A crust punk named Bug (Yackel) grapples with the realities of homelessness, mental health, drug use, and toxic friendships.  Bug and his friend Slim (Pietropaolo) spend most of their time scrounging for money, doing drugs, and going to rock shows.  However, on his 21st birthday he resolves to find his way home, a decision that leads him and his misfit crew down a dangerous path.  But getting to his home will be tough for Bug, Slim (Pietropaolo), and Jenny (Mosqueda) as it seems like every attempt to get there is met with societal issues, their own poor decisions, or wear that living on the streets has done to them.  

Gutterbug starts with a bang, filling you with some really amazing music that will get your blood flowing and set the stage for this film.  The music matches the style of the movie perfectly, with a rebellious nature that permeates the entire film.  And that energy and rebellion fuel a lot of the early part of Gutterbug.  Bug and Slim live on the streets, scrounge and do drugs, and try to live life as they can.  They are honest, tired, hungry, and downtrodden but also free.  And Bug is a good main character / narrator.  He narrates aspects of the film and provides insight into the overall happenings.  And it helps that his character is an interesting one.  Yackel puts on a great performance and really shows the conflicted parts of homelessness.  He highlights the camaraderie and the freedom, but also the constant worry for food and shelter, as well as the need to medicate through less than legal means.  And when Bug is joined by Slim and Jenny, then the film really starts to open up.  All these characters are wonderfully acted and their interactions are funny and heartfelt.  The three really do become a family, with the ups and downs associated with that.

And these characters don't just come alive due to the acting.  The costumes and make up transform these actors into their homeless counterparts perfectly.  Their hair looks greasy; their clothes are a mishmash, dirty, and scream youth in rebellion; and when they are under the effects of various substances, it shows through.  The story of Gutterbug definitely highlights a path that can lead to homelessness and the effects of poor decision making.  Bug left home years ago and has chosen to live on the streets, and the film does a good job of highlighting aspects of his youth and of the effect that his decision has had on his family.  And after the initial intense and high energy parts, the story builds slowly, with a solid introduction to the characters before progressing into the overall journey of the film.  The film is also told out of order so you get hints of different time periods that eventually coalesce.  And although the film does devolve into craziness towards the end, the ending really pulls you back in and focuses on the characters.  It is a satisfying end to an interesting, thoughtful, and very human story about mental illness, love, and survival.

Gutterbug tells a very human story, with complicated characters, plenty of youthful rebellion, and a satisfying conclusion. 

Watch it.

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