The Guatemalan Handshake

Runs at Grand Illusion, Fri., Feb. 9–Thurs., Feb. 15. Not rated. 96 minutes.

You could make the case for Crispin Glover and Harmony Korine being bold, provocative filmmakers. Then their imitators start showing up, and you wish people would go back to ripping off Scorsese and Tarantino. Writer-director Todd Rohal graduates from short films to a tedious first feature without creating a total Gummo-style freak show out of his Midwestern eccentrics; he treats his mostly amateur ensemble affectionately but aimlessly. Will Oldham (Old Joy) skips town after a turtle-related tiff with his preggers girlfriend (Sheila Scullin, who could make a career portraying young Laura Linney characters in flashback), which prompts a desultory search led by a preternaturally wise 10-year-old girl. Finding him doesn't really matter, though Handshake does stumble onto a few nice scenes. Oldham and Scullin serenade each other while the girl (Katy Haywood) makes time with fireflies. A black-and-white '50s flashback has a short-fused children's TV show host (The American Astronaut's Cory McAbee) inviting his young viewers to witness his suicide down at the local gravel pit—naturally, they're delighted to attend. Yet Rohal's yokels aren't grotesque enough to hold the eye; they're more like some forlorn group standing around their broken Pontiac on an old interstate. You think, Let's slow down and help. Then, seeing them more clearly, you put your foot back on the gas. BRIAN MILLER

 
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