A look at honesty and self-image starring the best actor of them all: the maintenance addict.
Dick Kuchera is a recovering alcoholic from North Dakota, USA. Suspended in the far north-central plains of the US, North Dakota is famous for vast expanses of nothing and bitter cold winters punctuated by devastating spring thaws and flooding.
It is a state of tolerance; most people there believe that survival itself goes a long way towards justifying unusual behavior. If unusual behavior gives way to downright idiotic behavior, well, that happens, too.
A star insurance salesman, Kuchera became addicted to alcohol. This is not a hard thing to do in the stimulus-deprived plains states of the American Midwest. The fact is, there is not much to do in small towns and cities buried in snow and sand-papered with wind-chill factors dropping to -50 degrees F. Drinking is a accepted substitute for, say, the beach volleyball and bicycling with which Californians fill their leisure time.
Some people tolerate alcohol abuse better than others. Kuchera did not tolerate it at all. As he became addicted, his demons were exacerbated by his inability to control his addiction. As his self-image plummeted so did his personal relations, his business, his career and everything else he loved, except for his love of the bottle.
This is the stuff of drama. However, there is little drama in recovery. Recovery is simply a rational approach to survival. It is almost the definition of normal life, and nobody cares about that.
This film attempts, with some success, to show the drama of a person coming to grips with addiction. He is recovering with the help of the fabled Alcoholic Anonymous 12-step program. The first seven steps of the program have to do with admitted one’s addiction and adopting religion as a force of salvation.
In the seventh and eighth steps the addict turns outward and reconnects with the world is a straight manner. These steps comprise addressing the wrongs done to others as a result of the addictions.
In Kuchera’s case, this list is comprised of ex-wives to ex-mistresses, abandoned children, slighted pals, cheated business partners and a host of others. Like it or not, one has to admit that addicts can be very energetic people.
When they make a mess of their life, they rarely stop half way to reflect. It is full speed ahead, a total commitment to succumbing to the substance. This film is a road trip of the addict’s journey and conversations with those who he has wronged.
Dick now prefers to be called Richard. Despicable Dick has been transformed into Righteous Richard and Richard is making amends. Director Joshua Neale connected with Richard through mutual friends and saw a story in this phase of Richard’s renewal. However, the story is hardly one of black and white, of right and wrong. It is a probe into the ability of the human soul to confront reality.
As the film goes on, Richard and Joshua challenge us to determine if Richard is really Richard or if he is Dick in Richard’s clothing. Frankly, the beneficiaries of Richard’s apologies are lukewarm, at best.
They accept his entreaties with the openness of American Mid-westerners but they are also guarded. Like a North Dakotan they enjoy the last days of a warm summer while preparing for the onslaught of winter.
The cheated business partner accepts the apology and welcomes the promise of repayment while we share with him the reality that Richard has no money and does not appear likely ever to have any.
The hollowness of this gesture echoes and resonates with other responses that are genuinely supportive and other responses that are doors slammed in the face. As the story goes, with each interpersonal gaff we pound a nail in the fence and with each apology we pull the nail out.
Nonetheless, the holes remain in the fence forever. This movie is an honest and unvarnished look at reality. However, as interesting as this film is at times, it is comprised of material that is simply too normal.
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Directed by: Joshua Neale
Release Date: Tribeca Film Festival World Premier April 10, 3011
MPAA: Not rated
Runtime: 79 minutes