Movie Review: A Downbeat Indie Amble through the Artsy Underbelly of Athens, Ga. — “Ragged Heart”

The milieu is more interesting than anyone in it and anything they do or have happen to them in “Ragged Heart,” an earthy dive into the underbelly of a “music scene that was” — Athens, Ga.

It’s the college town where The B-52s, R.E.M., Matthew Sweet and Widespread Panic got their start, a folk-artsy enclave in the Red State that Georgia is outside of Atlanta and Savannah. In writer-director Evan McNary’s film, that distant musical afterglow is the background noise of a story of a retired musician whose semi-famous singer-songwriter daughter came “home” from Berlin to kill herself.

So, Cracker Gothic? Little bit.

Wyatt (Eddie Craddock) is a Dickie Betts-looking old-timer, a guitar player who doesn’t play anymore but keeps his hair and sideburns in some sort of Allman Brothers tribute style. He spends his days rustling up junk for a folk artist friend and others, taking his brain pills and playing out life’s string.

He is “runnin’ outta carrots to tie to th’end of the stick,” he deadpans. “I fairly sizzle with zeal and enthusiasm.”

Daughter Miranda (Willow Avalon) has made something of a name for herself, singing in a sort of Southern-fried Amy Winehouse style. She comes “home” for her birthday, answers one of her dad’s voice mails and passes out — mid-call — while inner tubing down a lonesome river.

The last thing she left behind is some lyrics she was working on, the sort of legacy coveted by her dad and by her former lover, the embattled local record producer Declan (Joshua Mikel). Maybe something can be done with those words that would heal Dad and save Declan’s bacon.

“Ragged Heart” is an odd visual blend of rusty, trashy, “local color” backgrounds, snippets of musical performance and extreme close-ups of Miranda and “the New Miranda,” a singer Declan is grooming for stardom.

The performances have an amateurish monotone that matches the flat emotional pitch of the film.

Things kind of go wrong with Miranda’s death and funeral, neither of which merits so much as an onscreen tear. Where’s the grief?

McNary pays documentary-level single-scene attention to this or that artist or musician who hangs around the edges of the story. But the story itself suffers from a lack of novelty or much of anything interesting, just a few music biz tropes trotted out for melodramatic effect.

Compelling performances sometimes can compensate for those sorts of shortcomings. Not here.

McNary found an under-filmed setting and a curious world for all this to take place in. But the tale he wants to tell is too trite to hold our attention without larger-than-life characters telling it, without performers who know how to play larger-than-life.

Rating: unrated, suicide, smoking

Cast: Eddie Craddock, Willow Avalon, Joshua Mikel.

Credits: Directed by Evan McNary, scripted by Evan and Debrah McNary. An Unfilmable Productions release on Amazon, Tubi, etc.

Running time: 1:27

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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