'Sweaty Betty': Film Review

Courtesy of SXSW
The pig is adorable, but the film is a slog.

Joseph Frank and Zachary Reed's directorial debut is a semi-improvised portrait of several inhabitants of a low-income Maryland neighborhood.

Truth may be stranger than fiction, but it can also often be considerably more tedious, as evidenced by Joseph Frank and Zachary Reed's directorial debut. An awkward combination of cinema verite-style documentary and mumblecore non-drama, Sweaty Betty provides authentic urban atmosphere but little else of interest, especially of the narrative variety.

Filmed in the largely black and Hispanic low-income neighborhood of Hyattsville, Md., on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., the film focuses on a trio of real-life figures: Rico and Scooby, single fathers in their early twenties who, with the help of their own mothers, are raising their young children; and Floyd, whose prize possession is Miss Charlotte, a 1,000-pound pig he keeps in his backyard and who he hopes will serve as a new mascot for the Washington Redskins.  

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Another plot point, such as it is, involves Rico and Scooby receiving the gift of a pit bull puppy from a stranger who complains that it's too much trouble. Outfitting the cute canine with a homemade leash, they parade it throughout the neighborhood, wondering whether to sell or breed it while attracting the welcome attention of several young women.

Featuring a mixture of real-life and contrived situations with its subjects mostly improvising their dialogue (which is subtitled, and necessarily so), the film has the feel of an extended home movie, with all the attendant longueurs. Although the main characters are engaging and the massive swine is undeniably adorable in its porcine placidity, the lack of interesting action quickly proves wearisome. Even such would-be dramatic elements as revelations about death and drug abuse are treated in a cursory, casual manner.

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Featuring production values as rough as you might expect in this sort of makeshift project, Sweaty Betty has a likable quality and an obvious affection for its subjects who maintain a resolute cheerfulness throughout their struggles. But it's hard not to wish that the shambling material had been constructed into a more cohesive whole.  

Distributor: Breaking Glass Pictures

Cast: Seth Dubois, Floyd Rich, Rico S.

Directors: Joseph Frank, Zachary Reed

Screenwriters: Seth Dubois, Joseph Frank, Zachary Reed, Floyd Rich, Rico S.

Producers: Joseph Frank, Bill Strauss

Director of photography-editor: Joseph Frank

Not rated, 94 minutes