The Most Well Guarded Yeast Factory I've Ever Seen: Gentlemen Broncos (2009)

In terms of cinema, there are some obvious and undeniable facts.  There will never be another movie close to Citizen Kane.  There will never be another movie close to Salo.  There will never be another movie close to Pulp Fiction, and however you as a reader may feel about it, there will never be another movie close to Napoleon Dynamite.  It came along at a time of conventionality in American film and completely discarded the rules, gaining an unwavering and loyal cult fan base.  Sadly, even the mastermind behind the film, Jared Hess, cannot provide a film of equal proportions.  His 2009 film Gentlemen Broncos is far inferior to Napoleon Dynamite, yet is so much more enjoyable than the majority of its contemporary comedic rivals.  It has all the staples of the earlier film, but on a slightly bigger budget. Fortunately, the allowance of more money does not cause Hess to discard the eccentricities of his earlier work making Gentlemen Broncos as wry as Napoleon Dynamite, save for a much larger amount of toilet humor.

Gentlemen Broncos follows Benjamin (Michael Angarano) as he heads to a home school writing conference per the discretion of his mother Judith (Jennifer Coolidge).  Benjamin, while awkward, displays an uncanny ability to produce bizarre science fiction works, notably his personal homage to his father entitled The Yeast Lords, which follows a man named Bronco attempting to recover his lost gonad.  This story is made all the more absurd by having the various characters imagine the story as they read it, showing a long haired Sam Rockwell playing the novella's title character.  Fate appears in the favor of Benjamin because the pompous, Dylan quoting, raga chanting, Navajo impersonating Chevalier (Jemaine Clement) is the guest speaker for the conference.  Chevalier is a noted sci-fi writer and one of Benjamin's heroes.  As part of the conference, Chevalier offers one of the students stories a chance at publication after review by himself and a "panel of experts."  Suffice to say, after reading Benjamin's story Chevalier realizes its potential and plagiarizes it to re-obtain his position as a respected sci-fi writer.  To make Benjamin's experience all the more difficult he has also agreed to sell his story to a group of home-schooled snobs who promise to make his script into a film.  After providing him with a wrongly dated check, the group butchers his film and creates a short film that is reminiscent of middle school AV club production.  Eventually, with the help of his mother and his "guardian angel" Dusty (Mike White) Benjamin confronts Chevalier, ruining his reputation and ultimately gaining self-respect and the heart of a home schooled girl who previously snubbed him.  This moment of harmony is closed with Bronco riding into the sunset on a missile-launching deer, an image only believable in the world of Jared Hess.

It is difficult to convince myself to read to heavily into the work of Jared Hess, but as the commentary following Napoleon Dynamite showed it is entirely possible.  Given this, the theme of Gentlemen Broncos is rather apparent.  A person often finds the most self worth in things they personally create, whether it be Benjamin's writing, Judith's clothing designs, or in a less serious sense Bronco's gonad, a literal device of procreation.  The film display's Benjamin not only as a struggling artist, but as a young man trying to find a self-identity that is distinctly different from that of his late father.  For most of the film, he dons his dad's clothing and stares despondently into the distance in delusions of grander.  It is not until he must save his mother from an attempted rape that he removes these items, placing a unique piece of his mothers clothing on and driving himself into the city to confront Chevalier about stealing his ideas.  This confrontation is also notable, because as a faux father figure Chevalier controlled Benjamin's actions, belittling his remarks at the conference claiming undisputed authority on the proper names for trolls in science fiction.  By the films closing, Benjamin no longer requires a guardian angel and, like Bronco, can fly off into far galaxies to reclaim his lost manhood...be it in a figurative sense of course.

Gentlemen Broncos is a film that will not please many, I can say that with certainty.  However, for those with a taste for the bizarre this is one of the best examples I have ever seen of unconventional filmmaking.  It is definitely worth owning if only to create a drinking game.

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