Forewarning: This film requires a severely generous attention span. The basic premise is that a guy named Bob runs a farm and logging business in rural Massachusetts, and everything in Bob’s life is going to shit. He makes bad business gambles involving said trees, and attempts with futility to nurse his prize cow back to health as it succumbs to some parasitic flesh disease.
Meanwhile, Bob—who looks like a more grizzled Ted Lavine from that Hills Have Eyes remake—curses, spits, drinks and jams the fuck out to hardcore underground rap. Sometimes he drives to the village on his moped and yells at people. Sometimes he drinks and practices his golf swing in the snow. The film is really about Bob and his downward spiral, and what a breaking man can salvage from a broken situation.
It’s also just a cinema vérité-ish exploration of a wonderfully strange dude (Bob Tarasuk, who plays Bob—a guy who’s probably a lot like Bob Tarasuk). It almost feels like a lesser follow-up to the great Werner Herzog’s Stroszek—the latter of which Roger Ebert deemed “one of the oddest films ever made.” Or perhaps if they made a toned-down sequel to David Gordon Green’s Joe on a $5,000 budget.
To first-time feature director Diego Ongaro’s credit, there’s no smarmy melodrama involving the aforementioned plot points. Apart from Tarasuk’s performance, much of Bob and the Trees feels like awkward improv community theater. That last point will probably stand out too much for some viewers, as will some tediously long scenes.
But if you truly can stand a slow-paced, grim and “meditative” film with questionable resolution, Bob and the Trees is worth it if only for the subtle but fucking hardcore way it cuts to black. Come to think of it, the last scene in this movie is probably the main reason I’m writing about it. The story behind it is also worth a read.
LAST WEEK IN THIS SERIES: They Look Like People