Movie Curiosities: Whiskey Dixie & The Big Wet Country

Time for another dive into the world of Portland indie cinema.

“Whiskey Dixie & The Big Wet Country” started out as a stage musical, all the way back in 2018. It was first brought to my attention by John Bruner, a good friend of mine who played the male lead. From there, I was lucky enough to see the stage musical, and luckier still to become good friends and acquaintances with many in the cast and crew. Among them was Amanda Richards, the local country singer/songwriter who wrote, produced, and starred in the project.

Shortly after the stage production wrapped, news came in that Amanda brought back the whole cast to adapt the stage show into a movie, her writing/directing/producing/starring feature debut. Which obviously got delayed due to COVID and other issues. But finally, Whiskey Dixie & The Big Wet Country is completed, and yours truly got a comp to see the world premiere.

Buckle up, folks. This is a wild one.

Most of the action takes place at the Dixie Tavern, a quaint little dive bar in “Buttfuck, USA,” circa 2016. Amanda plays Whiskey Williams, a legitimately talented musician with lifelong dreams of stardom that never came true. Whiskey made the choice a long time ago that she’d rather have a career than a family, and now she’s staring down the barrel of middle-age burnout with the distinct possibility that she may never get either one. Thus Whiskey has given into entropy, drowning herself in booze and sex, instead of rallying whatever’s left of her youth and talent for one last potentially futile shot at greatness.

Things turn around when Whiskey is caught on video, masturbating while driving. On the one hand, she’s gone viral and careers have been made with a lot less nowadays. On the other hand, what kind of sick fuck gets her license suspended for masturbating while driving?

Matters are further complicated when the owner of the Dixie Tavern suddenly dies, leaving her grandson as the new owner. Enter Dick Princess (John Bruner), a devilishly handsome charmer who’s a bit of a chauvinist prick. He meets up with Whiskey and sparks get to flying, so now Whiskey finds herself in the middle of a potentially ill-advised relationship as a distraction from getting her life on straight. This on top of the ill-advised “relationship” she’s already in, settling for quick and easy fucks with the sweet, young, naive, ignorant Paul (Mac Kimmerle).

And that’s not even getting started on the supporting cast.

What we’ve got here is a cast full of drunks, perverts, narcissists, and self-destructive fuckups. And because it’s a musical, we get songs about STDs and cunnilingus. The main romantic ballad is titled “You Can Smoke the Rest of My Weed.” Dick’s big number is titled “Grab Life By the Pussy” (yes, that’s in clear and direct reference to You-Know-Who).

This may sound like a lot to take in, and it is. But there are so many reasons why it works.

A big reason is Trish (Brandie Sylfae), holding court as the revered bartender of the Dixie Tavern. She serves a crucial role as the straight foil of the cast, doing her best to balance patience and tough love as she calls the other characters out on their bullshit. Even when she’s not talking, it makes a huge difference having Trish in the background to roll her eyes while everyone else is making an ass of themselves.

Which brings me to another reason why this film gets away with so much: None of these characters — with only one or two exceptions — are meant to be sympathetic. They are all fuckups, and the film is explicitly clear in calling them fuckups. This makes for good comedy and clear thematic statements when the characters get called out and are made to suffer for their shit.

This is a sex comedy, so going as big and outandish as possible is the order of the day. Even so, it’s intriguing how the film balances over-the-top comedy with real consequences. There’s a pregnancy scare. There’s a graphic description of a sexual assault (CONTENT WARNING). And again, there’s a whole musical number about the importance of safe sex and STD testing — it’s funny, sure, but it’s also totally sincere. All of it evens out to a uniquely sex-positive comedy with a razor-sharp feminist edge.

But how did the end result fare in the adaptation from a live stage show to a feature film? Honestly, hit-and-miss. On the one hand, the cast and crew of the film could go so much further with the sex and nudity than would’ve been allowed onstage. The cinematic medium also allows for cutaways, costume quick-changes, lighting filters, and other touches in ways that wouldn’t be possible on the stage. All of it serves to make the film more heightened, which is exactly what you want with a musical sex comedy.

Alas, the adaptation doesn’t always work favorably. A key example comes with “The Pussyfart Waltz”, in which Whiskey describes a pussyfart (not to be confused with a queef), and Trish illustrates with interpretive dance. (Go back and read that last sentence as many times as you need to. I’ll wait.) Onstage, there’s enough room for Whiskey to have her moment while Trish does her interpretive dance. Onscreen, the sequence is framed and cut in such a way that there isn’t enough room for both and it doesn’t really work.

(Side note: I honestly don’t know if cinema is built for narration and ballet to occupy the same screen at the same time. Just look at The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Or better yet, don’t.)

Which brings me to my major sore point with this movie: The editing. I will readily grant that I’ve seen this exact same problem with a great many shoestring indie films, including some that I wholeheartedly love. (Ink and Mother of Color come immediately to mind.) Unfortunately, the fact remains that most of the conversations in this movie are shot in extreme close-up, thus requiring shot/reverse-shot sequences with cuts that are way too quick. There are some sequences that look like they were cut with a lawnmower for how little time the film can hold on one shot.

But all of this comes secondary to the music. It’s perfectly clear that the lion’s share of the effort for this movie went into the soundtrack. And it kicks ass. Even reduced to a concept album, this soundtrack is loaded with bangers, all superbly written with heart and humor and energy in abundance. It’s genuinely impressive how Amanda was able to cram so many songs into this movie, all different shades of country and western, all different kinds of humor pertaining to sex and drugs and bad personal hygiene. (No, seriously, there’s a song called “Poor Personal Hygiene”.)

Whiskey Dixie & The Big Wet Country was clearly built to be an underground cult hit. I don’t envy these filmmakers in the course they’ve charted. It’s a tall order for any film to set itself above and apart from all the hundreds and thousands vying to be the next Rocky Horror or The Room.

That said, I genuinely think and hope that this movie has a shot.

To be clear, this movie is nowhere near bad enough to qualify for “so bad it’s good status”, nor is it good enough (or tasteful enough) to make anyone in Hollywood stand up and take notice. But far more importantly, I feel reasonably confident that nobody else is coming out with a feminist sex-positive country western pot-fueled sex comedy musical anytime soon. Certainly not a film this funny, this heartfelt, and this self-aware. This movie has its own unique identity, fully and forcefully committing to its own outlandish terms and tone, and that goes a long way in establishing a cult classic.

Of course, it also helps that this is a musical. Somebody please screen this movie with subtitled lyrics. A midnight screening with a drunken audience singing along would be fucking hilarious, this needs to happen.

If you want to see the movie, I’m sorry to say this is another one of those times when I’m not sure what to tell you. I know the soundtrack is available, and I know the movie is going on tour at some point. The best I can suggest is to reach out to the filmmakers on their website and all their socials. Tell them I sent you.

To all my friends in the cast and crew, godspeed, you glorious perverted weirdos.

For more Movie Curiosities, check out my blog. I’m also on Facebook and BlueSky.

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