Last night's viewing - Storyville Survivors: Despicable Dick BBC4

 

 

The crude shorthand for Storyville Survivors: Despicable Dick would be My Name Is Earl as rewritten by Annie Proulx. My Name Is Earl because Joshua Neale's sort-of road movie shared a narrative backbone with Greg Garcia's sitcom about a "guy who does nothing but bad things and then wonders why his life sucks". Just like Earl, Richard Kuchera, in Alcoholics Anonymous for 20 years and frustratingly stuck somewhere between steps eight and nine (list those you've harmed and make amends to them), had finally resolved to clear some of his very considerable karmic backlog and he let Neale ride along with him as he did so. Annie Proulx because Kuchera, his family and friends are spread across some of the bleaker states of the American Midwest and because the mixture of pain and comedy and belated regret in the film was vividly reminiscent of her writing. The crude shorthand doesn't quite do it justice, though, because it was its own thing entirely – one of those films you wonder why you're watching at all until you suddenly realise it has you entirely in its grip.

"I used to be a dick and the essence of this journey is to try to be more of a Richard," Kuchera announced as he set off on his pilgrimage of contrition, heading out from a trailer marooned on a South Dakota prairie. It was an overneat line, and (as it turned out) typical of Kuchera's suspect glibness when it came to the language of remorse. He is a man, you realised later, in whom charm has turned pathological and his apologies were less an exercise in true contrition than a novel means of getting some attention. But the intriguing thing was that you could still see how easily people might have been charmed. In old photographs, Dick had the florid moustache and gleam in the eye of a 19th-century cowboy, a handsome rascal out on the Western fringe of respectability.

Some sequences were just flat-out funny. Talking to his son Greg about the possibility of a meeting with his first wife, Nola, Dick suggested that "maybe the thing for me to do would be to just show up". "Don't get shot!" said Greg, who happened to be sorting ammunition cases at the time. But then Dick sat down with Nola and you saw her trembling at the memories he'd summoned up (including a suicide attempt and the occasion when he tried to push her out of a moving car). Even Greg – who'd been abandoned when he was six by his father in favour of a hitchhiking trip around the world – was still visibly angry at his father's appetite for easy resolution.

There was a lot to be forgiven. Visiting his friend Tex in Omaha, Dick reminisced about the time he'd tried to get Tex's wife into bed. "We were buck-ass naked as I recall or close to it," he said, with more fondness in his voice than the situation perhaps called for, and then another memory distracted him: "Where did the bear rug fit into that whole episode? I think there'd been more than a little booze involved." But Dick was laying down fresh offences too, for future apologies. Visiting his current girlfriend, Beth, Dick tried to persuade her to accompany him to a strip-club as a birthday treat. "I don't want to," she said firmly. "I accept that," replied Dick, who is practised in the rhetoric of the group session. The next frame, a shot of the Kongo Klub, revealed that Dick got what he wanted anyway. The film ended with a family reunion in Las Vegas – a kind of out-of-town convention for Dick Survivors that began in strained jocularity and ended with Kuchera with his fingers in his ears, declining to listen to the grievances of those he'd wounded. He never made it to Richard in my view, but it was fascinating watching him try.

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

Voices
The main entrance to the BBC headquarters in London
TV & Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food