Sick Boy (Jeremiah Bitsui) is a struggling young family man, days from entering the Army. Nizhoni (MorningStar Angeline) is a high school graduate on her way to college; she’s also looking for her birth parents. And Felixia (Carmen Moore) is a transgender woman living with her grandparents and trying to get into a Navajo women’s calendar while earning money as a prostitute.
The three characters have disparate narratives that come together in ways that are overly contrived, but that doesn’t blunt Drunktown’s Finest's overall effectiveness. It helps that Bitsui has a natural earnestness that makes Sick Boy more likable than he should be; he keeps fucking up, getting into fights, assaulting cops and dooming his impending Armed Services career, but you can’t help rooting for the guy.
Angeline doesn’t come off as well (though she nails an emotional scene with her adoptive parents near the end), giving a stilted performance, and Moore is somewhere in the middle. Because writer-director Sydney Freeland’s screenplay moves so quickly between each story, it’s hard to spend much time focusing on some of the weaker performances and story threads.
Where Drunktown’s Finest really excels is in its sense of time and place. While the end result may not always ring true, it rings true to the movie itself, and that helps a lot. Freeland is one to watch.
Directed by Sydney Freeland
With Bitsui, Angeline, and Moore
Jean Cocteau Cinema