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Arts and Entertainment

DVD Review: Humboldt County

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Oh shit! Did I actually screw this dork last night? | Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

New to DVD today is Humboldt County, an introspective character piece by novice writer/director duo, Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs(both also act in the film). The film follows disenchanted medical student, Peter (Jeremy Strong), as he spends a summer lost within the confines of a marijuana commune hidden deep in the backwoods of Northern California.

In the film's awkward, opening scene, we learn much about Peter even though he says very little--he's socially awkward, emotionally vacant and extremely hesitant with the direction his life is heading. Aside from being the life of the chess party, Peter is also a man with certain physical needs. It's the physical need that drives him to bed a mysterious woman named Bogart (Fairuza Balk), aptly named for her tendency to "bogart" joints.

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Your American Pot Farmers | Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

The result of their disastrous love connection is an early morning, after-sex car ride, whereby Peter falls asleep and awakens to find that Bogart's led him to her family's distant hideaway in Humboldt County. From there, it's a quick descent into insanity as Peter narrowly escapes Bogart's trigger-happy, gun-toting adoptive father, Jack (Brad Dourif) only to discover the rest of the family is just as nuts. They are free-loving, peace-offering, marijuana growers and dealers who believe in ghosts, conspiracy theories and the eventual human colonization of the planet Mars. Peter realizes the lifestyle this family leads is far removed from the conservative, responsibility-laden reality that he knows back in his wholesome hometown of Los Angeles, and the difference piques his curiosity.

As Peter comes to understand and accept Jack and the rest of the family, he gradually comes to understand and accept himself. He finds salvation in doing things that under normal circumstances he never would have done: he smokes marijuana, dances in the moonlight, pees freely in the woods, initiates a bar fight, runs from the law, and forges a friendship with Jack's son, Max (Chris Messina), a would-be criminal. The friendship eventually falters, however, and Peter is suddenly put in grave danger. In one thrilling showdown involving a chase with helicopters and DEA agents, he learns the hard way that life can't always be lived too seriously, that tears and laughter go hand-in-hand together, like ebony and ivory.

By story's end, Peter is but a shadow of his former, reserved self. Able to make decisions, emotionally connect and stand up for that which he believes in, he boards a bus, begins a new journey, and never looks back. While we don't know exactly where the bus is headed, it's inspiring nonetheless that a choice is made; a new path is forged, and Peter is forever changed.

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Overall, the character development is strong, the scenery is beautiful and the shared moments of tears and laughter are pure in their attempts to be poignant. While Humboldt County is not a laugh-out-loud comedy, it subtly warms the heart and serves as a friendly, but important reminder: when faced with a fork in the road, run for the woods sometimes instead. DVD extras include the usual deleted scenes; a behind-the-scenes featurette and a short doc, A Little Hazy: Humboldt County Revisited.

Humboldt County is available today on DVD!