S.L.I.F.F. Review: ‘Carny’
‘Carny’ is a documentary that plays more like a gritty drama of relationships you might find in a David Lynch film. The film follows a group of carnival workers (“carnies”) as they live their lives on the road running the traveling carnivals with the rides and the games and the cotton candy. The characters are fascinating, but then you realize these are real people and the film becomes that much more interesting. For anyone who thought the carnival was dead, think again. Those that call themselves carnies are not only devoted to their work, but most of them love what they do and can’t imagine doing anything else. Others do it because they have to, but the individuals that writer-director Alison Murray focuses on have a strange desire for this work, despite the long hours and low pay.
The film is told primarily through the eyes and experience of Hairy, a young lesbian who truly loves working with the carnival. She’s a terribly sweet person who sells cotton candy, but she sees her fellow carnies as her true family, experiencing love and friendship like she does nowhere else. Carnivals are typically a seasonal gig, so when it comes time to pack up and go “home” for the winter it breaks Hairy’s heart. She had a terrible childhood and her hometown is no home to her. She feels like an outcast in her hometown. She’s different and that’s not accepted where she’s from. This is why she yearns to return to her true home with the carnival because everyone’s different there, so everyone’s the same and she feels accepted and she is.
I could talk about the audio/video quality of the film which isn’t the most impressive at times, but who cares? This is a documentary and we shouldn’t expect the same high-quality audio-video production. Truly, this “style” of shooting does in deed add an element of realism and spontaneity to the film that helps to emphasize what it’s like to live this lifestyle. During the film, we meet others and learn about their lives, including Bozo, a man whose spent twenty years as a cut-down comic clown in a dunking booth. We also meet a man who builds rides for the carnival and has two girlfriends as they attempt to carry out a threesome relationship, dealing with all the obstacles and drama that involves. We are introduced to a man whose been a carny for over 55 years, a young group of “freaks” who perform a variety show and a man that runs gaming booths, from whom we learn a lot about the business. All things considered, ‘Carny’ is one of the more interesting and original documentaries I’ve seen in a while, despite it ages old subject matter.
[Overall: 3.75 stars out of 5]