Oh, “Hohokam.” You sound like the Native American cousin of “Bubba Ho-Tep” yet if that were truly the case, the two of you would be like, 8th or 9th generation cousins. “Hohokam” is actually the second feature by Frank V. Ross and he’s carved himself a nice sized slice from the mumblecore pie. While many films of the (atrociously and perhaps prematurely named) mumblecore movement feature a whole lot of talking while the actions the characters display tend to show a whole other motivation, “Hohokam” narrows it’s focus even more than it’s cinematic brethren. This review is a little tough to write because I genuinely like this film but after two viewings, I’m still not sure what Ross is getting at. I will say that I look forward to seeing the film again but I won’t lie and say it’s a totally accessible film that everyone will get. I don’t think it’s supposed to be that anyway.
On the surface, the film is about the relationship between the blue-collar Anson (Baker) and his somewhat flaky yet sweet girlfriend Lori as they dally away the days in suburban Arizona. Yet even writing that description feels wrong. The characters are multi-layered and there’s so much more going on than meets the eye. On one level, you could say Anson is a redneck. He’s overly concerned with personal safety as we discover he carries a gun (it’s legal in Arizona) and enjoys teaching Lori how to box and defend herself in case of an attack. Yet when you describe a guy that way, you might think he’s an a-typical conservative. But as we meet Lori’s best friend, the flamboyantly gay Guy (Rhodes) we see Anson in another light. This time he’s just a regular guy trying to get to know his girlfriend’s friend and Guy’s sexual preference doesn’t seem to matter. And the film goes on like that…constantly changing, not quite evolving but also not leaving you hanging with open ended scenes.
I love the look at life between the cracks on display in “Hohokam.” As with other films of this type, it’s the little moments that mean so much more than the big ones. In the world of film, it’s almost a backwards way of doing things and for that reason, “Hohokam” is refreshing. Yet I know Ross and company didn’t just shoot scenes and edit them into the film willy-nilly, hoping to pique interest and conversation. There’s a reason for everything onscreen here and I didn’t always know what that reason that may be. Another example of purposeful vagueness would be the constant shots of defecation. Puking, peeing, pooping…snot are all over this film (not like, literally) and I realize everyone does those things so I wasn’t too offended. Rather, I was confused. The shots are there for a reason but what that reason is, in the big scheme of things requires more information from the filmmaker.
I guess what I’m saying is “Hohokam” raises a question in terms of how much time one wants to or needs to invest in a film. On a larger scale, think about the films of David Lynch. One viewing usually isn’t enough to really “get it” but it doesn’t make the film any less interesting. For me, I want to know more about Ross’s motivations and the reasons for his choices. That’s not to say you won’t enjoy this little sliver of life captured on film purely as 80 minutes of entertainment, it can exist as that too. But overall “Hohokam” is like the thread on a sweater that you can’t quit picking at. At least, I can never quit picking at them.