Stevie

"Bad"

Stevie Review


With no demanding actors, expensive special effects, or enormous film crews, documentaries are probably the easiest movies to make. Yet, since the genre looks at very specific topics, documentaries are probably the hardest movies to make appeal to a general audience. Michael Moore does it best when he combines broad, relevant issues with biting humor. Not coincidentally, his latest documentary, Bowling for Columbine, received universal acclaim and box-office success; it was one of the most entertaining films of 2002.

Stevie is the latest film by Steve James, the Academy award-winning director of the powerful, intimate documentary Hoop Dreams. But this is one of the most tedious films of the year, a two-hour ride through rural, southern Illinois, in a town where lifeless cattle graze all day, where old church steeples cast extended shadows across vacant street corners, and where the landscape distributes ramshackle country houses across the horizontal planes like raisins scattered through a bowl of Raisin Bran. Are you still awake?

When Steve James was attending Southern Illinois University, he became Stevie Fielding's Advocate Big Brother. Stevie was born illegitimately to a father he never knew and an abusive mother who never wanted him. When Stevie was a little older, his mother married and gave her new mother-in-law the responsibility of raising him. As a result, Stevie grew up with his step-grandmother, who lived right next door to his real mother. Stevie was a demanding, hyperactive child, living a heartbreaking life. James ended his formal duties to Stevie in 1985 when he relocated to Chicago to begin a film career.

James tells us frankly that findinga boy as troubled as Stevie was not what he intended when he became a Big Brother. As a child, Stevie had been placed and removed from every foster home in southern Illinois and as an adult he was arrested for a wide range of criminal acts. Having lost touch for 10 years, James revisits Fielding, who is now in his mid-twenties. During the course of filming, Stevie is accused of a sex crime, forcing James to examine his affection for Stevie while considering the atrocious crime he has committed.

Most documentaries begin with good intentions: to portray something that would normally be ignored by commercial cinema. Stevie is no exception. "It's an important story that needs to be told," says James. "It is ultimately a film about the humanity and compassion that can be found in even the darkest and most unlikely places." I disagree. It may be an important story to James, but it does not need to be told to a general audience. Stevie is not special enough to be the subject of a film. He's poor, uneducated, rural white trash complete with tattoos, crooked teeth, and long, greasy hair. These traits do not warrant a two-hour documentary film.

But Steve James doesn't understand this. He assumes the audience cares about Stevie -- but we do not. The film doesn't invoke our interest by arguing or contemplating controversial topics; it just candidly observes its uninteresting subjects. I've seen this work before, in Barenaked in America, for instance, the documentary about The Barenaked Ladies, a Canadian band, and their claim to fame in the United States. Barenaked worked because it said something interesting about fascinating people, while Stevie has nothing to say about uninteresting people. I once watched a documentary about a woman who made a hobby out of making plaster molds of famous peoples' penises. I could relate to her better than I could with these losers.

It's Stevielicious!



Facts and Figures

Run time: 140 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 13th March 2003

Distributed by: Lions Gate Releasing

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 68 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 8.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

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