Tuesday, 24 July 2018

The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

Although not as caustic, The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter takes a similar tact as Jody Hill's previous film Observe and Report, examining floundering male identities and the ways in which they resist change or, really, even the notion of growth. Josh Brolin plays Buck Ferguson, the star of a series of washed-out, wipe-transitioned hunting videos in which he, beaming ear-to-ear, tracks and kills deer. Unfortunately for Buck physical media sales are drying up, necessitating a fresh angle. Ferguson's big idea to improve these sell-through numbers is an idealised father-son hunting trip, culminating in his child's first kill.

Montana Jordan's Jaden has never hunted before and, since Buck is incapable of examining situations from any perspective other than his own, the father hopes his son will embrace the family trade. Naturally Jaden couldn't give two shits about his Dad's passion project, he'd rather spend time on his phone, listening to music and talking down to his girlfriend. Even Buck's gift of a totemic, lever-action rifle pales in comparison to the kitted-out Call of Duty weapon given to the boy by Greg, his mother's new partner. Buck has spent his life trekking around the world shooting animals then drinking his pains away, consequently his relationship with his son is wobbly at best, relying on sneaky McGriddles to keep it ticking over. Craving a role model, a listless Jaden has latched onto the aforementioned live-in boyfriend, played by Scoot McNairy.

Greg is flashy and shallow where Buck is simple and staid. Greg preaches a doctrine of minimal effort but, like Buck, projects his own failings onto the boy regardless of whether or not they fit the child's actual personality. Jaden is bombarded and overwhelmed, desperately seeking distraction. Buck is similarly stuck, an unemotive sort unable to be truly effusive about anything other than his great white hunter persona and how Danny McBride's cameraman captures it for home video. Buck's attempts to engage with Jaden as a subject within the falsified narrative of their landfill DVD project fail miserably. It's only when the two began to collaborate and exchange ideas that a bond develops. Buck may have missed out on a ritualised bloodletting but, despite himself, as the team hurtle down whitewater rapids together Jaden steals glances at his father, reassured by his calm. Buck, briefly glimpsed as present and unyielding in the face of adversity.

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