Warning: there are no actual bums in this picture.
I admit, when I slid Bums into the DVD player, I began watching with the trepidation that usually accompanies foreign films. Five minutes in, I heard the first “aboot” and giggled. I thought to myself, “Am I going to be able to get past this?” I’m not racist against Canadians or anything – except maybe Jim Carrey – but “aboot” makes me laugh. Blame it on South Park, blame it on SCTV, I don’t know. In any case, my fears were unfounded. That first “aboot” was the only time I was distracted by Canadian-ness. I am a retard.
Bums seems to be generated from the same sensibility that spawned Slacker and Clerks back in the 90s. Yes, it’s a day-in-the-life narrative that is not overly plot-heavy. Yes, the narrative is heavy with pop culture references. That being said, I don’t want to be cheap and toss Bums in the same bucket with those two films. The attitude is of homage, not copycatting. The bums in Bums are not throwing those references out there lightly to build cred with the audience. Instead, they’re using those references to examine their own lives, their own relationships. Don and Dave are not arguing over which characters in Top Gun they like best – they are using the characters’ relationships as a metaphor for their own relationship. There were moments that came a cross a bit heavy handed though, the snakeskin jacket bit, for example.
I was surprised at how much I was able to relate to the characters in Bums. Lucy was definitely my favorite character. I identified with her no-bullshit attitude and even saw a bit of myself. (Freshman year in college, I wrote a paper about the sexual attitude confusion caused by my repeated childhood viewings of Bosom Buddies and Three’s Company.) I also got a kick out of the Heather character, but Jill sucked – I wanted to kick her in the teeth. She sucked in a realistic way – I’ve known many girls like her that I also wanted to kick in the teeth. I was disappointed that there was no hot lesbian action. Not because I like lesbians – although I do – but because it fit with her character arc.
Ten years ago, I would have called Bums an Indie, but the term “Indie” has been utterly and completely perverted from what it originally meant. All the big studios make “Indies” now. Most of the Indies sold at festivals still have million dollar budgets and big name stars. A new term needs to coined to describe the films being made by the people – films like Bums and Cornman. The Butler Brothers use the term “guerilla” in their promotional material, which has a certain ring to it…but I also like the term “gonzo.” Unfortunately, the “gonzo” label has been adopted by the porn community to describe their low budget films, so I sure would hate to tack that label on to real films. How about we start calling them “prole” for proletariat?