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By Mark Bell | April 14, 2012

After their school bans The Catcher in the Rye, three students decide to rebel via some bathroom graffiti… which promptly gets them suspended for a week. With the newfound time on their hands, Andrew (director and co-writer Andrew Edison), Luke (co-writer Luke Loftin) and John (John Karna) head out to experience the world Holden Caulfield-style. This apparently means a trip into the city involving a motel room rental, a hooker, drugs, mall train rides and adventures with a frightening-looking homeless woman. Meanwhile, their harmless graffiti is misinterpreted by the school security officer as a threat against the school, and he prepares to deal with their eventual return.

“Awkward, subversive charm” is what initially popped into my head while watching Bindlestiffs (I think of weird s**t). The authenticity inherent in a film about teenagers made by the very teenagers you’re watching on screen elevates the slightly absurd content into something more compelling. Couple that with the raw dialogue and the misadventures that follow and you’ve got a film that transgresses in as many different ways as it can… and I loved it.

Sure, the look and sound of the film can be as raw as the words at times, but you tend to accept it as part of the lo-fi charm because the film is so disturbingly funny. When you’re done cringing over the homeless woman puking blood in the motel room bathroom, for example, you can’t help but laugh when one of the gang heads in to lovingly hold her hair back… among other things (this sentence sounds far more disturbing than the scene; well, not really more disturbing… f**k, how do I get out of this? Um…).

It’s hard to review this film in the sense that I want to talk specifically about a number of scenes from the film, but I also think part of what made them so fun to experience is how out-of-left-field they are; to tell you now would ruin your own experience. Just so you’re not entirely left in the dark, you can expect some severe raunchiness, though most often delivered via wordplay and some strategically composed shots and scenes that manage to keep you thinking that what you’re watching is even dirtier than it actually is.

Which is actually a credit to the technical side of the film. It’s a fine line between outright showing something as it is and suggesting it in such a way that the audience makes it even better in their heads. Bindlestiffs excels in this area. Additionally, the film is cut together tight; scenes don’t linger too long, nor is it too frantic. Everything settles into its comic groove and lets the film works its magic.

In the end, Bindlestiffs is just downright hilarious, maybe even a bit intellectual (add The Catcher in the Rye to anything and watch folks fall over themselves looking for meaning) and all the way subversive.

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