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The ill effects of meth, and of bad filmmaking

The pace is frenetic, the cast is twitchy and the dialogue is unwittingly funny in `Iowa.'

April 14, 2006|Sam Adams | Special to The Times

It ain't "State Fair." The chirruping yokels in Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical may have been fed on Iowa corn (not to mention her barley, wheat and rye), but it's clear that Matt Farnsworth, the writer, director and producer of "Iowa," was raised on a different diet, equal parts "Cops," "Badlands" and "Requiem for a Dream."

Farnsworth's frenetic, often hysterical first feature tries desperately to find a style, or styles, to call its own, but there's never a moment that doesn't feel as if it's been chewed up and spit out a dozen times before.

Farnsworth, who evidently makes up in self-love what he lacks in ingenuity, stars as muscle-bound, muddle-headed Esper Harte.

Finding a cache of methamphetamine among his recently deceased father's effects, Esper and his girlfriend, Donna (Diane Foster), take a test snort and rapidly become addicts, their meth-fueled binges accompanied by stock-footage nightmares and "Requiem"-style montages.

The well-documented damage meth wreaks on the body is nowhere to be seen, but Esper and Donna's minds dissolve almost instantly. "I love this gun," Donna coos. "Can we drive to Egypt?"

Farnsworth's script is larded with such unintentional howlers, delivered by a twitchy cast that includes John Savage as Donna's hapless police chief dad, Rosanna Arquette as Esper's floozy mother and Michael T. Weiss as his corrupt parole officer. Although his handlebar mustache is unsuited to twirling, Weiss' vicious, snarling villain is the stuff of vaudeville, even if his profane dialogue would have gotten him the hook.

As the lovers run in circles, hatching a plot to manufacture their own meth, Esper's mother and his parole officer are conspiring to bump him off, the better to claim his father's life insurance settlement. But there's no way out for anyone, unless you count the audience fleeing up the aisles.



MPAA rating: Unrated

Full Fathom 5 Films. Writer-director-producer Matt Farnsworth. Directors of photography Andrew Parke, John Houghton. Editor Robert Brown. Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes. Exclusively at the Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500.

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