Just, Melvin

"Weak"

Just, Melvin Review


The trouble with reviewing a documentary is the inherant difficulty in making a case for a review. You work in narrative film, you watch narrative films at least once a day, every day, for years on end, and you write about three or more reviews a week on nothing other than narrative films. Then someone sets films like Spring Forward, Spectres of the Spectrum, My Dinner with Andre, or a documentary in front of you and all of a sudden you are dead in the water.

Documentaries are the absolute worst of this crew. You have a general impression that it was touching, you have a general impression that it was good, and you have no specific points beyond this. Your standard weapon for the biopic, that it is playing the sympathy card by being "based on a true story," is taken away. You have a dilema: how do you insult the true story as being exploitative? Is there a point that truth every becomes sensationalistic?

This question weighs heavy on the mind of many a media commentators (people who ironically make their living on the vehicles that the deride). It sits on the backs of many more a movie critic at this moment, while we collectively ponder the ultra-hard-hitting documentary Just, Melvin.

Just, Melvin is the true story of 50 years of sexual and physical abuse to a Pacific Northwest family at the hands of one Melvin Just, an inbred looking hick if I've ever seen one. Said hick beat and raped his stepchildren for years on end, resulting in a dysfunctional family ten times beyond anything you see on Jerry Springer, one corpse, and one documentary that verges on exploitative.

Just, Melvin tells this story in a manner that is not only bizarre (the story is intercut with writer-director-producer-partial subect James Ronald Whitney's appearences on Star Search), but also extremely amatuerish. Whitney looks into the camera and makes an hour and a half long documentary that has all of the quality filmmaking of an after school special. Imagine an after school special with a lot of profanity and frank talk of sexual abuse, and you have a clue what Just, Melvin is like.

The fact of the matter is that the profanity and frank take on the subject are the only two things that Just, Melvin has going for it. Reviewing a documentary about sexual abuse with anything other than a glowing review makes the critic look like a total schmuck, and Whitney knows this. The documentary's production values are shabby, the story that it tells is trite although it is true, and the manner in which it is told is, as admitted by the director, part of entertaining the audience. Hello? This is a film about a pedophile abusing his children. If you're having fun, then you should seek help.

Can truth be explotiative? I answer the age-old question here: YES! For those media commentators who wish to see proof, you need to go no further than any multiplex that is playing Just, Melvin.

Aka Just, Melvin: Just Evil.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 96 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 1st January 2000

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Fresh: 6 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

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