Vernon, Florida (1981): United States – directed by Errol Morris
Not rated by the MPAA – contains some mild language and turkey shooting
Errol Morris, after making the amazing Gates of Heaven documentary about a bunch of crazy people who like to bury their pets in pet cemeteries, moved on to a small documentary about a tiny town in Florida.
The movie is simple and I love the simplicity. There is no director talking or asking questions. There is no nothing, actually, except citizens of the town talking. They talk about what they like to do and what they believe and what they’ve already done.
One guy loves turkey hunting. He’ll close his store down anytime in order to hunt turkeys. He talks about turkey hunting strategy, what it means when a turkey gobbles twice in a row, and all sorts of hilarious stuff like that.
There are several crazy old men, including one guy who talks about sweeping brains off the sidewalk or something. He’s seen brains before, you understand, and later in the film we get a slight explanation of why. There’s another guy who sits on a bench and talks in a funny voice about random stuff.
It’s all very eccentric and funny; each person is different and odd, and that’s what makes it both an Errol Morris movie and an entertaining watch. It’s nicely made, too, since the camera holds perfectly still most of the time like it’s on a proper tripod. Very little handheld action going on here. Too bad you don’t see more of that nowadays.
One of the best segments involves a worm farmer who knows everything from practical experience. He informs us that there are books on such subjects, but they are all wrong. You have to learn to farm worms by doing and experiencing. Another little old guy in cute suits keeps a cage full of random critters, such as a turtle that he encourages along by kicking it, and a possum that’s alive. Possums fetch $1,500 at some sort of auction, don’t you know.
The scenes move back and forth among the various characters. There are three or four main folks, none of them women and all of them eccentric, and the film is nicely paced as it gives us some time with each one before moving along.
If you enjoy listening to people talk, you will most like enjoy the film. If not, you won’t enjoy the movie at all since that’s all it is; eccentric people talking, which I love. It’s short, too, at under an hour, so there’s no excuse not to watch it. Watch it and enjoy a brief picture into the lives of some small town Florida folks.