Reviews — July 18
Jul 21, 2014
One night, while productively scrolling through the Netflix menu for about 30 minutes, I came across a Canadian TV series called “Trailer Park Boys.” I still wasn’t ready to commit to a show, but it seemed interesting enough. I added it to my list.
I should have watched it that night. “Trailer Park Boys” is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in awhile, and I zipped through the seven seasons in pretty good time.
The show follows the half-witted schemes of three petty criminals who reside in the Sunnyvale Trailer Park in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. As Ricky, Julian and Bubbles try to get rich quick, their efforts are constantly foiled by the alcoholic trailer park supervisor, Mr. Lahey, and his ever-shirtless, cheeseburger-eating companion, Randy.
The show is shot in a mockumentary format, and sometimes the camera crew becomes involved in the action. The grainy footage and filming style almost make you believe you’re watching the adventures of real-life trailer park denizens — but this production is pure fiction. It reminds me of “Arrested Development” in the way jokes develop; several motifs are repeated throughout the seven seasons, and they seem to only get funnier as the show goes on.
Apparently, the show was big in Canada, and talks are in the works for another couple of seasons. Each episode is a pretty mindless use of 30 minutes of your life, and you won’t come away with any deep insight about the plight of the poor. But the series is hilarious, and the jokes get even better as it goes on.
“Trailer Park Boys” (2001-2008) Starring John Paul Tremblay, Robb Wells, Mike Smith, Patrick Roach. Not rated, but includes profanity, violence and some nudity. I would give it an R rating.
If you’re used to watching action movies or reading thrillers, you’ll think that nothing much happens in “Benediction,” Kent Haruf’s 2013 novel.
You’d be right, in a way: there are no shoot-outs or car chases, although one vehicle gets stuck in a ditch for a while. But you’d also be wrong: Life happens, in all its themes and variations.
As the novel opens, Dad Lewis — “Dad” is a nickname that’s stuck since his daughter was born half a century ago — finds out that cancer will take his life. He has just a few weeks to say goodbye to his beloved Mary, daughter Lorraine and many friends; figure out what’s going to happen with his hardware store; and make peace with the regrets he’s piled up over the years.
But the novel isn’t just about Dad, who spends most of the book lying in bed or sitting looking out the window of his home on the prairie. It’s also about many of the other residents of small Holt, Colorado, a town that’s windswept, weather-beaten and enduring.
There’s a minister, exiled from Denver after he said things his big-city congregation didn’t want to hear and now having just as hard a time in Holt. When he preaches about turning the other cheek and loving thine enemy, some of his parishioners call him a terrorist sympathizer.
Two women in the congregation — elderly widow Willa and her daughter Alene, a retired schoolteacher — stand up for him. Like their town, they have been shaped by hardship and deprivation, but they carry on. They are thoughtful and caring, and when they see someone who needs them, they reach out to help rather than waiting for an invitation.
This time, it’s a child, Alice, whose mother has died. She comes to live with her grandmother next door to Dad, and soon she is being included in the life of the community.
As Willa, Alene and Lorraine make her a part of their lives and give her things, it becomes clear that mothering Alice helps them as much as it helps the little girl.
“Benediction” may sound depressing, but it’s not. It’s a quiet, thoughtful novel about life, community and endurance.
“Benediction,” by Kent Haruf, 2013, Vintage Contemporaries.
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