The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time ★★★½

I am amazed that two films I got to work on have been released within a week of each other. Last week it was Johnny Leguizamo’s Critical Thinking and this week it’s Antonio Campos’ impressively cast The Devil All The Time.

During production on CT, our little South Florida based production office team (there were four of us) found out through a producer we worked with on Waves, that TDATT would be our next project and that it would be shooting in Alabama. I purchased the book and read it during the early morning hours when I was the only one in the CT office. I really liked the tone of the book. It’s bleak as hell and the characters are rich and the story and the way they all weave in and out of each other’s lives was compelling.

I moved to Birmingham for 5 months in January 2019 and had an exhausting time. Alabama is tough place to make a movie of this size.

For one reason or another, so much of our crew was brought in from all over the country which resulted in a feeling of being stranded on a strange southern island with a racially sordid past. We were all working long hours, far away from our homes with nothing better to do with our time off then explore, what ended up being a pretty fun city. 

However tiring it all was, I can only look back on it through rose-tinted glasses. I don’t think about the long hours. I don’t think about the chaotic shooting schedule. I think about the chicken tenders and fruity cocktails at Black Market with our accounting friends. I think about taking midday walks from the office to the Pizits food hall for mason jars of Piper&Leaf tea. I think about the biscuits and iced coffee from Big Bad Breakfast, also with our accounting friends.
I think about the farmers market with the incredible jelly that I really need to try and get my hands on again. I think about the day trip to the strangest thrift store I’ve ever been to, Unclaimed Baggage, that has on display in its front entrance, one of the Hoggle puppets from Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, a thing that just showed up there one day in someone’s lost luggage. 

Then there’s that cast. If my memory serves me, the first batch of actors that came aboard included Holland, Pattinson, Scanlen, Clarke, Wasikowska and, as many may know, Chris Evans, who would eventually bow out to be replaced by Sebastian Stan. Seeing this cast come together was such a thrill. I had just seen and loved the Zellner brothers Damsel, so you see Wasikowska and Pattinson sort of coming together again was super cool. 

Once in a while working in the production office, some of the cast will come through, for a fitting or a meeting with the director or prop person. This movie had, by far, the most exciting string of those pop ins. It may be superficial, but this is all was all still new to me and I love movies, therefor catching glimpses and meeting some of these people excites me, so fuck off. 

Working in a production office, I rarely get a chance to visit set. On this movie I had three very fun chances to visit. The first was on one of the many Saturday’s that we worked, I had the day off, but there was a taco truck on set. So I drove to work, and seven of us piled into my production minivan and drove to the Prayer Log set for tacos. It was during the filming of the finale with Arvin and Bodecker and that was really something to see. The tacos were very good and very free and there were Jarrito’s. Very wonderful.

The second visit was during the week we filmed at the church, which I knew from Burton’s Big Fish, in Deatsville, AL, which is about 90 mins from Birmingham. The distance was going to make it a difficult week for all the paperwork that gets passed between set and the office during a day of shooting. So we booked a room at one of the hotels that we were using and each day one of us would drive down to the church in Deatsville, collect the days paperwork, spend the night, head back to set in the morning, collect anything that might need to be brought back to the office and someone else would drive down and do the same. 

The church is tiny, it’s size makes it quite striking in contrast to the wide open land around it and I believe they were filming the banquet scene the day I drove down and all I could really do that was just hang out and watch filming, which was awesome. I especially enjoyed meeting a friendly local dog that just wandered up to set and spent the week hanging out and relaxing with everyone.
 
The last set visit was the final day of shooting. It was one of very few “studio” days that we had. The studio being a giant old warehouse that the costumes props and set sec departments 
had been occupying. They built an interior set of the Russell house where they were shooting some of the stuff where Charlotte is sick as well as a small second unit, directed by Vox Lux’s Brady Corbett, that was shooting some stunt inserts.

It was a late call and we ended up leaving the production office a few hours before wrap and drove to set, about 10 minutes away and hung out until we wrapped. There was a pizza truck to celebrate. I had pizza and watched the second unit filming some of the more violent inserts of Arvin beating up the bullies who pick on Lenora. Then the main unit wrapped and champagne was popped and gifts were exchanged and hugs were had and that was that.

Now here we are, and it’s playing in select theaters across the country during a global pandemic and the movie...is fine.

There are some excellent performances. I enjoyed Hayley Bennett, Kristin Griffith and Jason Clarke the most. Pattinson is really weirding it up, which is fun to see. I hope Holland continues to move away from the Marvel world, he has incredible movie star potential, even higher than what he’s already achieved. Harry Melling and Pokey Lafarge are a great duo. I would love to see Pokey do more acting, he has a natural theatricality to him and is also just really good dude. 

My biggest complaint about the film, coming from the standpoint of only having read the book (I never read the script before or during filming, for some reason I never bothered the think about), is that I feel like we don’t get to spend enough time with the characters. The movie just kind of happens. It’s such an expansive story, covering so much time and so much misery that we never get to just dwell on like you do in the book. This could’ve been a great miniseries. But then again, I think five or so more months of filming would’ve driven everyone on the crew literally insane.

It really was an exhausting and difficult and possibly cursed experience, but leading up to this movies release, I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I miss it and I miss a lot of the great people I became friendly with and strangest of all, I miss Birmingham and that’s something I never would’ve thought I’d find myself saying. 

Wear a mask and go see this if you can do it safely. Otherwise, it’ll drop on Netflix on Wednesday the 16th.