Gutterbug opens with the 9-1-1 call in the aftermath of a car crash. The movie then flashes back from the victims of the accident in the hospital to the few days leading up to the fateful event. Steven “Bug” Bugsby (Andrew Yeckel) is an intelligent, spirited young adult, though most of his energy is spent begging for change and looking for a bridge to sleep under, as he is homeless. That does not mean he’s alone, as there’s his best friend Slim (Justin Pietropaolo) and his significant other, Jenny (Hannah Mosqueda).
Jenny brings light to Bug’s bleak world, as he suffers from mental health issues as well. But, with her around, those nuisance bunnies hopping all over his brain are quieter now. On his 21st birthday, Bug resolves to find his parents, who have been searching for him these past three years. But, the day seems to have different ideas, as Slim’s anger management and paranoia progress to the point of reckless abandon and wanton violence. Can Bug find his mom and dad? If so, does he get the help he needs? Will Slim and Jenny stay his friend if he leaves the streets?
“On his 21st birthday, Bug resolves to find his parents…”
Directed by Andrew Gibson, and written by Gibson and Chris Tobin, Gutterbug has a kinetic punk rock aesthetic that really hammers how on the edge these characters live. It’s grimy, intense, fast-paced, and feels absolutely authentic. When searching for a job, a Promethean task as he doesn’t have an ID, Bug goes on and on about the sort of music he loves. It’s a sweet, genuine moment that highlights both his passions and desperation. It’s a lived-in, realistic moment that heightens the stakes, as it allows the audience to buy most everything going on.
The duo’s crackling screenplay is filled with excellent dialogue as well. Eddy (Billy Jenkins), a dim-witted but big-hearted convenience store worker, asks Jenny out on a date, stating that his mom makes a “pretty good beef stew.” Jenkins naturally delivers the line, and it is laugh-out-loud funny. Other moments such as all the things Slim claims Tina’s brother to be, while crass and ill-timed are equally amusing.
They also deliver on the dramatic side of things, well mostly at least. The characters are well developed and interesting. Each of the three leads has a reason to be on the streets that is believable, and their veritable bond comes across as pure friendship, not just out of being in the same dire situation. This holds equally true for the flashbacks fleshing out Bug’s strained relationship with his parents.
"…a kinetic punk rock aesthetic..."