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By Christopher Curry | September 16, 2005

“Jefftowne” was supposed to be a film chronicling one year in the life of 38 year old Jeff Towne and his struggle with Down’s Syndrome. What’s interesting, as the film shows, is that Jeff doesn’t appear to be struggling at all. Rather, Jeff’s family and friends seem to be having the most trouble with his affliction. Jeff merrily swills beer, gropes unsuspecting women, watches porno, and from time to time engages in petty theft. Clearly, Jeff is a whole lot more like the rest of us than we’d ever want to admit. There are very few who’ve not partaken in at least one or all of those vices. Good taste notwithstanding, Jeff also shows a devotion and love for Star Trek and Hulk Hogan.

In and around all of his favorite activities, Jeff hangs out at the local movie theater where the employees have befriended him. This surrogate family taunts Jeff but they also seem to be more or less enamored of him. All this might be pretty good for someone in his position, but Jeff has other problems. He has a wretched looking foot that has inadequate circulation, a mouth full of rotting chompers, poor bladder control and an unintelligible dialect that leaves most people scratching their heads.

The film moves on, and some of its more disconcerting scenes include: Jeff’s decrepit wheelchair bound mother spending her days hamfistedly pounding at a church organ while telling the interviewers of Jeff’s talents. Talents!? She has also hinged their financial future on the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. I’m working with this publishing house.” Also, the scenes of Jeff mumbling gibberish as Mom responds accordingly are mind numbing in a way that is just indescribable.

Director Kraus and company seem to approach this thing like animal documentary film makers, and have employed their policy to “remain observers and not to interfere with the subjects.” It would be all too easy to dismiss “Jefftowne” as exploitation, or as the New York Underground Film Festival put it, “tardsploitation.” However, there seems to be more at hand here than just putting a mentally challenged man on display for the curious to gawk at. I suspect that Jeff’s friends, who are also the creators of this film, found that by making this movie they would be more enabled to accept and deal with him.

Does the film “Jefftowne” exploit its subject or endear it? Viewers will have to be the judge as the film makers’ point is unclear, or they merely want the audience to face the facts and decide for themselves. “Jefftowne” is damned funny at times and quite pitiful at others. You’ll laugh and then you’ll shake your head in dismay, and whatever the intention, the outcome is simply mesmerizing in its bravery and brutal honesty.

This Troma release has several extra features including; Deleted footage, trailers, behind the scenes documentaries, the short sequel “Jefftowne 2″ and most importantly, subtitles. Those who are less than fluent in “Jeff-Speak” should use the subtitles.

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