Greetings again from the darkness. If you haven’t figured out that life is much different at age 38 than at age 18, this Oak Cliff Film Festival documentary will be shocking to you. Jerry White, Jr attempts to recapture the boundless creativity that fueled the mid-1990’s public access TV show that he and his friends so enjoyed – “30 Minutes of Madness”. The main obstacle to his plan: two decades have passed since the unhappy ending, and some members of the group haven’t spoken in years.
The film is directed by Jeremy Ross, but the commanding force here is Jerry White, Jr. He was and remains the dominant (and domineering) personality of the group, though the quick-tempered teenager has transitioned into a manipulative megalomaniac adult. To say that he is unpleasant to watch is a bit of an understatement. Having recently graduated from USC film school, he has no job and no prospects, so the idea of “going home” to Michigan to see if lightning can strike twice makes as much sense as any other strategy.
What he discovers in his old Rochester, Michigan stomping grounds is that most of his childhood friends are pretty unhappy and unfulfilled as adults. By pretty unhappy, I mean depressed, drug addicted, and even struggling with mental illness. It seems most of the group still lives locally, and only a couple have found any amount of happiness.
It would be pretty easy (and understandable) to dismiss this as two hours of watching miserable grown-ups who haven’t accepted life’s responsibilities and long for the creative freedom afforded to carefree teenagers. However, the psychological analysis afforded by this group makes it the ultimate character study. Contrasting the dictatorial traits of Mr. White with the near child-like approach of some of the group members – those so desperate for just a hint of respect – is both painful and fascinating to watch. It begs the question … how can those so fearless in youth be so unsuccessful in finding meaning in later life?
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