12 Days of Netflix: Pottersville
Mark Harrison | On 16, Dec 2017Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Seth Henrikson
Cast: Michael Shannon, Judy Greer, Ian McShane, Ron Perlman, Thomas Lennon, Christina Hendricks
Watch Pottersville online in the UK: Netflix UK
We unwrap a different Christmas film from Netflix’s dubious seasonal selection every day. For 12 days. It’s the 12 Days of Netflix.
“You thought you had to become Bigfoot in order to save this town, but it turns out you saved it just by being you.”
Pottersville has to be seen to be believed. The name hints about its berserk aspirations as a future Christmas classic by referencing the name of the darkest timeline version of Bedford Falls from It’s A Wonderful Life. It lives up to its name, too, for this film truly inhabits a universe in which George Bailey was never born, and it’s all the more bizarre for it.
In George’s place, we have Maynard Grieger (Michael Shannon), the self-sacrificing owner of a general store who loves his town, and often gives more than he can afford to try and make his customers and neighbours happy.
Now, this is a bit of a leap, but after discovering his wife, Connie (Christina Hendricks), likes to dress as a bunny and frolic with the local sheriff (Ron Perlman) in their bedroom, Maynard goes on a moonshine-fuelled bender dressed in a gorilla costume. He’s stunned when reports of his rampage are mistaken for Bigfoot sightings, and the town is besieged by excited tourists.
You can make a good movie out of just about any premise, and a plot this surreal with a cast as good as this one could and should have yielded some spectacular results. Alas, director Seth Henrikson and screenwriter Daniel Meyer don’t have whatever it would take to make this watchable. The film’s default mode is cringe-making comedy, repeating jokes that probably could have been cut in the first instance. Despite an intriguingly off-kilter premise, it seems to think furries and accents are the funniest things in the world.
In the main, the accent stuff is down to the phoney Australian television presenter Brock Masterson (Thomas Lennon), who arrives in town with a helicopter and a camera crew, and gets lumbered with the bulk of the film’s uncomfortable, apparently improvised nonsense. Paired with Perlman, and Ian McShane as a dogged hunter, Lennon is tasked with crooning a romantic song about hunting Yetis (rather than Sasquatch?) and awkwardly riffing on Christian Bale’s Terminator Salvation meltdown, about eight years too late.
It’s strange how many great actors seem properly committed here, even when the script gives them nothing, but it’s how disturbed Shannon looks at more or less every moment that really gives you pause. It’s obviously not a character choice, because he looks properly spooked and claustrophobic, as if he’s just realised what movie he’s agreed to do.
I can only imagine that he and the rest of the stellar cast are all big fans of the Frank Capra movie that this broadly rips off. Certainly Judy Greer, who has been Too Good For This in much better movies than this one, is the MVP for her straight-faced delivery of that opening quote alone.
Oddly colour graded and covered in bad digital snow, Pottersville is cheap but not especially nasty festive fare. You’ve never seen a film elevated so high by the baffling commitment of a good cast, but even on the shoulders of giants, there’s a ceiling imposed by the desperate lack of anyone who can get even a slight grasp on the tone of this crazy thing.
Pottersville is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.