By Merle Bertrand | October 25, 2001

The legendary Sir Alfred Hitchcock used to argue that the scariest horror moments occurred in broad daylight. After viewing director Shaun Peterson’s bleak comedy “Living In Missouri,” one would be inclined to agree. Forget about monsters or psychopathic killers leaping out of dark shadows, the horror here lays in the lives of three ordinary young Americans. Ryan (Connor Ratliff) is a pathetic office drone, hopeless “Star Wars” geek, and, unfortunately, the father of two children. His high school sweetheart-turned-bored, long-suffering wife Amy (Christina Puzzo) watches her idealistic youth fade further into the rear view mirror as she passes her days working as a nurse. Most pathetic of all is Todd (Ian McConnel), Ryan’s pudgy best friend since the seventh grade, who works at a video store, still lives with his parents, and remains, in all likelihood, still a virgin.
Sad sack that he is, Todd at least has enough of a clue to realize that Ryan and Amy’s marriage is clearly falling apart. As he has lusted after his friend’s wife since junior high, the dangerously envious Todd grows ever-more frustrated at how Ryan treats Amy; how he takes her for granted if he pays attention to her at all. When she turns to him, of all people, for advice and support, he soaks up the attention even as he grows more acutely aware of his dangerous conflict of interest and the precarious position in which his longing for Amy puts him with Ryan.
The horror here, of course, is how commonplace this depressing, all-too-real and unwelcome slice of Americana probably is. True, there are (thankfully) very few people out there as despicable and loathsome as Ryan. But surely there are millions of couples just like Ryan and Amy, just going through the motions of their relationships. And even if they make an effort to dig themselves out of their rut and improve their relationship, as Ryan and Amy do with even more depressing and disastrous results, they don’t really know how to break those old habits.
Seeing the results of a marriage hopelessly trapped in the La Brea Tar Pits of obliviousness, immaturity, and self-centered laziness is perhaps the most harrowing aspect of this very well done film. Sympathisizing with Todd, in all his pathetic glory, comes in a close second.
“Living in Missouri” is a gritty slice of life; an anti-Norman Rockwell bleak comedy that somehow — incredibly — manages to be as funny as it is luridly depressing.

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