For anyone who has grown up in a small town, The Death of Dick Long is going to feel less like a narrative and more like a documentary.
There’s a rawness to it that impeccably captures the backwoods country lifestyle. You know the characteristics: Keystone Light, discolored trucks, hard rock music, Copenhagen-stained Wrangler jeans and double-wide homes.
However, the film isn’t made to poke a stick at southern living. It delves into the skeletons that we all hide in our closets. Everyone has something in their life that they’re not particularly proud of. I know I do. The Death of Dick Long, directed by Swiss Army Man‘s Daniel Scheinert, is a funny and sad journey that encourages audiences to accept their faults. It goes to some incredibly dark and uncomfortable places, but it has a lot of fun in the surrounding areas.
You know you’re in for a treat when one of the first lines of the film is, “Y’all [expletive] wanna get weird?” The opening shows a band of three hillbillies chilling out in a garage singing a sloppy cover of Staind’s “It’s Been Awhile.” From there, we get into all kinds of drunken debauchery, including setting off fireworks and messing with each other while passed out. But things get out of hand — really, really out of hand. Oh, just you wait. It’s a horse of another color.
One of the trio, the titular Dick Long (played by Scheinert), kicks the bucket. You don’t know how just yet, but you know buddies Zeke Olsen (Michael Abbot Jr.) and Earl Wyeth (Andre Hyland) were involved and they want to put the tragic night in the rearview. But in a Coen brothers-esque style, their attempt to cover up this mess isn’t easy. Family and friends begin to question them as news of an unidentified deceased man spooks the town. The pressure cooker is steaming. Best of luck to these two idiots.
The Death of Dick Long isn’t going to sit well with some, and that’s completely understandable. But it’s very seldom that you encounter filmmakers who are willing to explore the dark sides of ourselves. In many ways, it’s like watching a high-anxiety episode of The Office. But instead of including characters like Jim Halpert and Michael Scott, it’s a litter of Dwight and Mose Schrutes. It’s pure chaos. So, if you can keep from grinding your teeth down to your gums, you will find so much to enjoy and think about.
Amongst all the hilarious dialogue (southern drawl at its finest) and pop culture references, there are beautifully sincere scenes. Most of them feature Zeke’s wife, Lydia (Virginia Newcomb, who deserves a supporting actress nod). Her reactions and expressive eyes cut to the bone. You can feel every ounce of her pain and fear as she tries to make sense of what happens. The internal game of tug-of-war she battles throughout generates emotional waves that crash with stinging reality.
The Death of Dick Long plays like a comedic interpretation of the 2010 film Winter’s Bone. There are harsh realities to face, but there is so much sunshine to soak up between the branches.
You’ll break a sweat and also cry from laughter — a winning combo if you ask me.