Film

Rural Drama ‘Dixieland’ Is Upstaged by Its Occasional Flashes of Real Life

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The rural South isn’t the only part of the country that was abandoned by the U.S. economy, but you’d expect a film with a title like Dixieland to engage with that region’s very specific history, tangled up with threads of race, dissent, violence, and a huge, Texadelphia-size portion of denial.

Dixieland‘s tragic poor white folks live in a small Southern town, but they could be anywhere close to a prison and outside the U.S. urban clusters. The desperate cycle of incarceration and recidivism form the background for the story of Kermit (Chris Zylka), a drug dealer released from prison after serving time for an assault charge in a town without job prospects.

Writer-director Hank Bedford delivers some tactile, human details: The kid is talented at cutting hair and wants to be a barber; Zylka evinces interesting ADHD restlessness during Kermit’s conversations with his mother (Faith Hill). But the film is slow and often agonizingly predictable. There’s a dancer (Riley Keough) who needs a man’s support to walk away from the pole, and there’s a strip club owner (Brad Carter) with an explosive personality who always explodes at exactly the moment you expect, like a time bomb with a big digital countdown. And while you expect Kermit’s eventual downfall, what isn’t predictable, or welcome, is the abrupt anticlimax of his story.

Bedford intercuts the narrative by interviewing actual residents of the town where he shot the film; all of their stories touch on death more movingly than the fictional script does.

Dixieland

Directed by Hank Bedford

IFC Films

Opens December 11, IFC Center

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