Yet another quirky independent comedy about a disenfranchised white male urban slacker, FLOUNDERING is distinguished mainly by its left-leaning politics and numerous cameos by boho thespians and alternative rockers. John Boyz (James LeGros) is an unemployed, downwardly mobile denizen of down-and-out Los Angeles in the months just following the Rodney King...read more
Yet another quirky independent comedy about a disenfranchised white male urban slacker, FLOUNDERING is distinguished mainly by its left-leaning politics and numerous cameos by boho thespians and alternative rockers.
John Boyz (James LeGros) is an unemployed, downwardly mobile denizen of down-and-out Los Angeles in the months just following the Rodney King riots. In between vacuuming the ants from his kitchen drainboard and fantasizing about the Latina angel he spies from his window, he learns that his
unemployment has been suspended, the IRS has attached his bank account, and his brother Jimmy (Ethan Hawke, in a cameo) needs $3,000 to enter drug rehab. His ex-girlfriend Jessica (Lisa Zane) is too busy sleeping around to bother with his problems, while his only friend who's wealthy enough to
help, Dougie (Ebbe Roe Smith), a former high school English teacher who's turned to capitalism with a vengeance, advises him to look to the power of prayer.
Meanwhile, Boyz encounters a series of eccentric characters. In cameo appearances, JC (John Cusack) delivers a boozy rap about spirituality, Ned (Steve Buscemi) rants about child slave rings, and Billy Bob Thornton appears as a racist gun merchant with an "I've Seen Elvis" button. Virtually the
only other recurring character is Police Chief Merryl Fence (Nelson Lyon), a reactionary blowhard who revels in conducting large-scale sweeps of undesirables (Fence is a broad caricature of notorious former LAPD chief Daryl Gates). As Boyz begins to lose his grip on reality, Fence emerges as his
nemesis, and comes to personify all the evils he encounters in contemporary LA.
Boyz begins his final descent when he joins a group of twisted revolutionaries who hang out in front of his apartment smoking crack. By their logic, the problem is the solution: LA's thousands of prisoners and gang-bangers are actually a People's Street Army, silently awaiting their call to
arms. Boyz takes a hit and awakens hours later, face-down on the sidewalk, despairing and penniless. In a last desperate act, he kidnaps his dream woman (Maritza Rivera), who treats the episode as a vacation and steers them to a motel room on the outskirts of Vegas. Boyz decides to kill Chief
Fence, but the People's Army has beaten him to the punch. When Dougie finally comes through with the cash, Boyz offers his apartment to a homeless family (Exene and Viggo Mortensen) and buys a thousand dollars worth of bread to feed the indigent.
FLOUNDERING is the directing debut of Peter McCarthy, who helped produce a string of low-budget cult pictures in the 80s and early 90s, including REPO MAN, SID AND NANCY, and TAPEHEADS. McCarthy's skewed sensibility, which closely resembles that of his frequent associate, director Alex Cox (who
appears in a cameo), mixes film-school Brechtianism with prevailing underground cultural trends, presumably as a way of soft-selling a leftish world-view to a target audience of urban hipsters. While soi-disant slackers will probably regard FLOUNDERING's loose, meandering story line as a virtue in
itself, others are likely to lose patience. The substance of McCarthy's script lies in the cameo bits, which are generally given over to demented screeds on the decline and fall of practically everything. These are rarely as funny, or as satirically pointed, as they're meant to be. Still, McCarthy
deserves credit for introducing a kind of political ambition, however uncertainly expressed, to a subgenre that ordinarily celebrates apathy. (Violence, nudity, sexual situations, substance abuse, profanity.)