Film / Gummo

Gummo is a 1997 avant-garde independent film by Harmony Korine, who would later go on to direct films like Julien Donkey-Boy, Mister Lonely and Trash Humpers, and was heavily advertised for his past work as the writer of Kids.

It is set in the dying town of Xenia, Ohio, after a tornado wrecks it. Most of the residents have moved on to greener pastures, leaving only the poor, criminals, and the disabled. Lacking a narrative, the film instead depicts scenes of the residents' nihilistic, miserable lives.

The movie is very disturbing, with a constant feel of unease and disgust throughout. Both surreal and lifelike, Gummo is not for everyone. It's devoid of any typical film structure or really a climax, and often uses still images with narration.

The film received responses of general abhorrence from critics and failed to make back its $1 million budget, only raising just over $100,000. However, Gummo is now being celebrated and respectfully seen as an innovative masterpiece.

Not to be confused with the forgotten Marx Brother.

This film provides examples of:

  • Big Brother Mentor: Tummler is a twisted version of this to Solomon, maybe even an outright subversion of this trope.
  • Black Comedy: What humor there is in the movie is definitely this.
  • Bury Your Gays: Harmony Korine plays the film's only openly gay character aside from the gay black Jewish wrestling midget. The two have a heart to heart in Korine's One-Scene Wonder and the description of homophobia directed against him is gut-wrenchingly accurate. Also, when Tummler and Solomon get high on glue in the woods, Tummler tells the story of his transvestite brother who left Xenia. The usually homophobic Tummler shows an inkling of empathy here, could be considered a Pet the Dog moment.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: The 3 sisters: Dot, Helen, and Darby.
  • Crapsack World
  • Downer Beginning: Begins with Solomon grimly half-whispering a voice-over describing the effects of the tornado while disturbing home movie footage plays.
  • Fanservice: Chloe Sevigny's character using electrical tape to perk up her nipples.
  • Intentional Values Dissonance: The sexism and racism, the truly venomous homophobia and transphobia (particularly exhibited by children who hardly even know what they're talking about), and the casual animal cruelty of the residents of Xenia are all intentionally disturbing and unsettling.
  • Kick the Dog: Well, more like kick the cat. The two main characters kill stray cats to sell to the local meat market. Also, the scene where the kids dressed as cowboys "shoot" the Bunny Boy at the junkyard and verbally abuse him for a good five minutes. It's pretty unsettling hearing actual kids talk like that.
  • Mr. Exposition: The boys narrate the movie at different points, with some characters only being referenced by other characters and introduced by Solomon's narration, namely his father.
  • One-Liner: "I once knew a guy who was dyslexic. But he was also cross-eyed, so everything came out right." -Tummler
  • Psychopathic Man Child: Tummler and Solomon.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Tummler and Solomon. Solomon is innocent and childlike, Tummler is pure nihilism. Tummler seems to despise life and everything in it, Solomon expresses a love of life and its beauty even in a place as dismal as Xenia.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Critics of the film usually label it this.
  • Shout-Out: Two shout outs to the band Slayer; the patch on Solomon's jacket (which is also an allusion to the fact that he kills stray cats for money) and in one of the jarring film collages there is fan footage of a guy who has carved the band's logo into his arm which is genuine.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Depending on the scene. That being said, this is probably the only movie to ever feature Buddy Holly and Burzum on the same soundtrack. The opening scene with the happy song about farming played over footage of the Bunny Boy, a mute homeless child's sad daily routine definitely counts as this.
  • Surrealism: All possible definitions. One of Harmony Korine's trademarks, actually.
  • Twofer Token Minority: The black, gay, Jewish midget.
  • True Companions:
    • Despite their general fucked-up-tivity, Tummler and Solomon.
    • The three sisters, Dot, Helen, and Darby, are always seen to get along well and are frequently together.