This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Chris’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
- Korine never allows the audience to get comfortable. He has a small arsenal of cinematic techniques that he switches between at various points, but they're so inconsistent with one another and he transitions through them so haphazardly that it's always jarring and creates an oppressive sense of unpredictability. There is no way to know what you will see next, scenes don't follow any logic or reason so there's no progression to track or try and understand. Even within themselves, the scenes are jagged and loose, none of them having any real clear beginning or end, so there's a very real sense that anything could happen at any time, which creates a felt tension that hangs over the entire thing. But Korine doesn't ever deliver upon this tension in a story or character sense. He doesn't tie together any strings of narrative. At most, he sometimes brings characters together. But the tension isn't about constructing a thrilling plot or endangering the characters. It's about really allowing the viewer to occupy this strange and totally unfamiliar world.
The world of Gummo is everything. These characters and everything they do are just byproducts of a neighborhood ravaged by a circumstantial disaster that was entirely without logic or reason or meaning, and thus it thrust these characters into these new existences that were void of the same things.
Everyone in Gummo is searching. Searching for purpose (Tummier and Solomon killing cats like it's their job),, connection (the various hook-ups and crushes and physically intimate interactions throughout the thing), meaning (the quick flashes of Satanism), escape (huffing glue), something. Everyone is looking for some kind of existential validity or at the very least a distraction from their emptiness. But ultimately, all of these things are constructs. All of them are duties or relationships or definitions or distractions created by these characters to cope, but beneath everything is the reality that there really is nothing here for them. Everything they have they had to invent for themselves to get through the day; there is nothing larger waiting for them and nothing inherent to sooth their dread and hollow lives. This is painfully clear for these characters, because they live in ruin and they're all barely able to rebuild some semblance of a life for themselves, so we can see how futile and shallow their actions are with the nihilism that so blatantly surrounds them, but it's also true for everyone. All life is like this. There is no meaning or purpose or validity. Existence is circumstantial. And we can still provide meaning for ourselves, it's what we have to do and it works and it's what being a person is. Life truly is about what you make it, which is liberating, I think. But, I think Korine is trying to tell us to not take ourselves too seriously, and to not hold on too tight, because it isn't hard to lose everything. And if you do, it's very hard not to also lose yourself in the aftermath.