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Home / Articles / Arts / Film /  ‘Rich Hill’ personalizes poverty in a small Missouri town
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Tuesday, Aug 19, 2014

‘Rich Hill’ personalizes poverty in a small Missouri town

Documentary about three young men struggling to survive tops our coverage of movies screening around town

By Glenn Heath Jr.
still_03 Rich Hill

The town of Rich Hill, Missouri, consists of nearly 1,400 residents. Like a lot of rural American communities, it's a place divided by class and economic status. Directors Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos spent a year filming three young men from different families struggling to make ends meet. Rich Hill, the resulting documentary, provides an intimate look at what it means to be poor in modern America.

Andrew, a well-spoken and positive 13-year-old, lives with his family in a rundown house. He lists all of the times they've had to move due to money issues; their nomadic lifestyle has had a profound impact on his childhood. Appachey, who's barely 12 and already a chain smoker, can't seem to stay focused on any one task except skateboarding. Then there's Harley, a powder keg of anger once abused by his stepfather and now ready to explode at any moment. Each boy provides a unique angle on how poverty both limits and defines one's identity.

Rich Hill very often feels like a classic observational documentary in the vein of Frederick Wiseman's films. Yet it circumvents many of its most dramatic revelations with a tone-heavy musical score that contorts the reality being presented. This contradictory style diminishes the film's social importance and calls attention to the filmmaker's ideological motives. The result is an overtly lyrical slice of Americana, a non-fiction version of B-roll from an unreleased Terrence Malick film. 

That's not to say Rich Hill—which opens Friday, Aug. 22, at the Ken Cinema and screens for one week—doesn't have its virtues. Andrew offers insight beyond his years, as when he acknowledges how little power he holds in defining his destiny. "I have no say in what happens. They're the parents." In his face we see the purist form of tragedy, the dimming spirit of a child.

Opening

2nd Annual Exitos del Cine Latino: San Diego Latino Film Festival and Media Arts Center San Diego present a mini film festival with 12 new movies from Argentina, Chile, Mexico and elsewhere. Runs Friday, Aug. 22, through Thursday, Aug. 28, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. 

If I Stay: After a car accident, a young woman has an out-of-body experience that leads her to a life far different than she ever imagined. 

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar: Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this documentary follows Dr. Patricia C. Wright’s mission to help the endangered lemurs of Madagascar.

Ken Cinema Classics: Nine pivotal films from the 1960s and ’70s. Screens Friday, Aug. 22, through Thursday, Aug. 28, at the Ken Cinema. 

Rich Hill: The real-life story of three boys growing up in impoverished Rich Hill, Missouri, trying to make ends meet on a daily basis. Screens through Thursday, Aug. 28, at the Ken Cinema. 

Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller return with another noir mash-up about killers, corrupt politicians and gorgeous women.

When the Game Stands Tall: Jim Caviezel plays high-school football coach Bob Ladouceur, who took the De La Salle Spartans from obscurity to an amazing 151-game winning streak. 

One time only

Sarah’s Key: A French journalist researches the life of a girl struggling to survive in 1942 and finds that their lives are strangely interconnected. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20, at the Scripps Ranch Library. 

Lady Valor: The Kristen Beck Story: A former Navy SEAL decides to become a transgender woman but keeps her transformation a secret from family and friends. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20, at Hillcrest Cinemas.

Point Break: Love is where the surf breaks, bro. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. 

Chasing Dora: A group of adventurous surfers hand-craft their equipment for a speed-record competition in South Africa. Screens at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, at the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park. 

Singin’ in the Rain: The end of the silent-film era spells the beginning of a romance between Gene Kelly’s debonair star and Debbie Reynolds’ charming movie extra. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, on the outdoor patio at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla.

Sharknado 2: New York City is about to get hit with a hurricane full of sharks and a lot of parody. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, at various theaters. Get details at fathomevents.com.

Shadow of a Doubt: Joseph Cotton plays a creepy stranger who pays a visit to an unsuspecting family in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Aug. 21 and 22, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills. 

Frozen: Come on, you parents, we know you want to see this again on the big screen! Shows at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22, at the Jacobs Center’s amphitheatre in Lincoln Park.

Sleepless in Seattle: A kind but melancholy widower (Tom Hanks) living in Seattle calls in to a radio show and becomes a national phenomenon, sparking the interest of an admirer (Meg Ryan). Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 23 and 24, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills. 

Cuban Fury: An ex-salsa-dancing phenom (Nick Frost) gets a second chance at redemption when he enters a new dance competition. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 25, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village. 

Until the End of the World: Wim Wenders’ insane sci-fi / drama hybrid begins with a car accident that sets off a chain of events that leads to the end of civilization. Screens at 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 25, in the sculpture garden at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.

Ping Pong Summer: A teenager goes on summer vacation to the New England coast and befriends a fellow ping-pong enthusiast. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library. 

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: Jimmy Stewart’s freshman senator storms the capitol and creates waves with the old-guard politicians. Screens at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, at the Lemon Grove Public Library.

Nowhere Boy: Biopic about John Lennon’s childhood and eventual partnership with Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, at the Mission Valley Library. 

Blazing Saddles: Mel Brooks skewers the western in hilarious fashion, upending racial and social stereotypes through comedy. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.

Now playing

Calvary: One day a troubled Irish priest (Brendan Gleeson) is threatened during confession, sending him into a downward spiral of sin and doubt. 

Coldwater: On par with his mother’s wishes, a teenager is abducted, placed in a delinquent reform facility and forced to confront the tragic events that sent him there. Ends Aug. 21 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park. 

Expendables 3: The 1980s have officially reassembled for the third time to blow explosions into your face. 

Finding Fela: The legendary Nigerian musician’s rise to artistic and political prominence is depicted in this documentary from director Alex Gibney. Ends Aug. 21 at the Ken Cinema.

Let’s Be Cops: Two goofball friends posing as cops for a costume party get sucked into a night of debauchery and danger. 

The Giver: Lois Lowry’s classic young-adult novel about a not-so-utopian future gets the big-screen adaptation starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. 

What If: Young people sit around and talk about love and friendship and wonder why nothing makes sense. It stars Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan.

Alive Inside: Dan Cohen tries to revolutionize the eldercare industry by giving seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s the opportunity to experience music again with iPods and headphones. The results are staggering. Ends Aug. 21 at La Jolla Village Cinemas. 

The Hundred-Foot Journey: The proprietor of a famous French restaurant (Helen Mirren) clashes with the family running a new Indian eatery down the street. 

Into the Storm: An onslaught of unprecedented tornados touches down and causes havoc in the Midwest. Global warming is a real bitch. 

Step Up: All In: Get your grove on, again.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Watch out for Raphael. He’s a party dude.  

Get on Up: The James Brown biopic we’ve all been waiting for from the director of The Help

Guardians of the Galaxy: American pilot Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his rowdy alien crew become objects of a manhunt after stealing a valuable orb that belongs to a diabolical space villain.

Magic in the Moonlight: Woody Allen’s latest cinematic confection follows an English debunker (Colin Firth) brought in to unmask a possible swindle involving a wacky astrologist (Emma Stone). 

Forces of Nature: See the Earth rumble, explode and spew in glorious IMAX. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.

Back to the Moon For Good: Watch as teams from around the world compete to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, which challenges engineers to land a robot on the moon. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.

A Most Wanted Man: Director Anton Corbijn (The American) adapts John le Carré’s famous novel about a web of spies operating in the shadowy confines of Hamburg, Germany.

And So it Goes: Michael Douglas plays a grumpy real-estate agent whose life is suddenly uprooted when he’s forced to care for his estranged granddaughter. It co-stars Diane Keaton. 

Hercules: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson dons the sword, sandals and skimpy underwear to play the half-god at odds with his immortal brethren.

Lucy: Thanks to a drug-smuggling operation gone bad, Scarlet Johansson miraculously begins to use 100 percent of her brain and seeks revenge against the bad guys who put her on the spot. 

Boyhood: Richard Linklater’s epic drama follows the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age 6 to 18, charting all the highs and lows in between.

Planes: Fire and Rescue: This sequel to the 2013 animated hit film finds lead race plane Dusty (Dane Cook) forced into working with a fire-and-rescue unit after his engine is damaged. 

The Purge: Anarchy: It’s that time of year again to murder, murder, murder, all for the benefit of the good ol’ United States of America. Let freedom ring.

Wish I Was Here: Zach Braff stars as a struggling actor attempting to overcome the avalanche of problems that face his family and parents.

Begin Again: When a forlorn singer / songwriter (Keira Knightley) breaks from her cheating superstar boyfriend (Adam Levine), she finds newfound success with a disgraced record executive (Mark Ruffalo) willing to take a chance on an unknown talent.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Ten years after a virus outbreak pitted apes against men, the two factions forge a fragile peace that’s tested by fear and aggression. It’s directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) and stars Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman and Andy Serkis. 

Hidden Universe: Blast off into the stratosphere with this documentary that uses real images captured from telescopes to examine the vast reaches of space. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. 

How to Train Your Dragon 2: Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless encounter new challenges while trying to bring their species together in harmony. 

Maleficent: Angelina Jolie stars as the infamous sorceress who sets her sights on the nubile young Princess Aurora in this big-budget reboot of Sleeping Beauty

X-Men: Days of Future Past: The latest installment of the popular Marvel franchise finds Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) going back in time to recruit his colleagues’ younger selves in order to save mankind from the evil Sentinels. 

Chef: Jon Favreau returns to comedy filmmaking with this story of a well-respected chef who opens a food truck after being fired by a posh restaurateur. 

Journey to the South Pacific: Let the glorious scale of IMAX take you to the tropical islands of West Papua, where life under the sea is just as lush and vibrant as it is on shore. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.




 
 
 
 
 
 
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