Randy's Corner Deli Library

01 November 2008

"KENNY": A Contemplation on Life from a Real Plumber

"Kenny" - A Contemplation on Life from a Real Plumber

I was fortunate enough to receive a screener's copy of this recently released to DVD Australian film from GSE Entertainment Marketing. Just so you have an understanding of the significance of this film we have to look both in Australia as well as at our own culture which has recently given an insight into the intersection of the plumbing business and politics, courtesy of "Joe the Plumber". I would like very much that Joe Wurzelbacher meets Kenny Smythe, who runs a company in Melbourne, Australia called "Splashdown" which provides and services trailer sized-toilet trailers such as you might have seen at a State Fair or County Carnival, designed to handle massive amounts of shit.

Focusing the camera fairly immediately upon the film's opening, we see a toilet door from one of his porta-loos that looked like it had been melted by molten lava. Kenny then very sincerely says in thick and sincere Australian, "be careful of the Devil's curry".

Word has it, according to a tale Kenny tells toward the beginning of the film that the word "shit" came from the Romans, who, after some time, got tired of the stench of rotting manure aboard ships headed for new colonies which was caused by leaky and often flooded ships' floors. So after some period of time, someone got the bright idea to mark the boxes in which manure destined for foreign lands "Stack High In Transit. He says very straightforwardly that he had absoutely no idea if that story was true, but, he observed, somebody came up with a whale of a tale just to explain the beginnings of the word "shit". He also has learned that shit was once revered and actually looked at people's in order to forecast the future. Evidently, George Bush had his examined some time ago, and we now see the results of his dishonesty with the American people.
as we sit on the precipice, or in, some of the bleakest times I can remember. But suffice it to say that when you need to talk about shit, this man knows from what he speaks.

The lines out of what amounts to a kind of Australian Borat, only far less uncomfortable to watch, though it is a mirror on our own lives nonetheless: we're all in the shit together, and all that matters is, as Kenny tells himself about his son's future: "I'd be stoked if he got into this business, making a good buck, was proud of his trade, and surrounded himself with good people like I have." Here is a guy who, through the most mundane tasks of living and of parenthood, looks at life with a real understanding of what is, in stark contrast with what he deals with on a daily basis, really important in life.

The intimate-feeling conversation with his friend who is about to get married about the fact that 70% of marriages end in divorce is just a remarkable piece of filmmaking. Discussing marriage and divorce, we are given a window into his commonsensical, folkloric outlook which, it seems to me, is clearly shaped in some measure by and certainly reinforced by what it is that his business is all about. Kenny teaches about life's normal hardships, such as when he shows up to his son's mother's house, only to be told by the true-to-life- ice-bitch ex-wife who asserts that the boy has to be home at 4:00 in the afternoon which will allow only a half hour for his son to see his grandfather at his trailer park on the ocean, an hour and a half each way. It was so very sad listening to the ex-wife just beat an obviously a well-intentioned dad to a pulp emotionally. "Kenny" is compelling storytelling, but since it's done a documentary I have to credit the excellent editing job that was done on this film along with the director and the star, Kenny Smythe. To piece together the massive quantities of film that was shot, formed into a film with a message told through a wonderfully believable and genuine, home-spun Kenny Smythe is an achievement in itself.

The scene between Kenny and his dad, who thinks his son is a "glorified turd burglar", argue about what it is that Kenny does: collects others' shit. On his first airplane ride, bound for a "the poo Convention" in Nashville where just by being himself Kenny seems to generate real happiness with a flight attendant who is charmed by Kenny's honesty and forthrightness, endearing and not obsequious at all. Once in Nashville, he wryly comments to a taxi driver the realization that "there's a shitload of money in crap". How true. Kenny's entire attitude is one of being positive and realistic and a of being a person who is obviously growing as a person: his persona just jumps off the screen by word and deed and I ended up feeling glad that I was able to meet a man who, through all of the shit, figurative and literal, is a happy bloke.

The film's scenes at the Melbourne Cup, the lines that are delivered with such meaning and kindness, for better or worse, are sterling. Ultimately the film delivers outstanding and meaningful messages on a number of different levels.

"Kenny" is a refreshing look at a life that is at once familiar as shit, and at the same time foreign as well, yet terribly, terribly universal. Kenny reminds us that real life and the decisions and hypocrisies exist wherever we are and whatever our life's position.

This film deserves all of the usual and customary cliches that appear in regular magazines and newspapers as a contemplation of a man's inherent reason for living and loving. "Kenny" is well worth your time and money and it will stick in the back of your brain for longer than you'd perhaps care to admit. You'll love this film.

Randy Shiner
Now Available on DVD
Districbuted by Xenon Pictures through GSE Entertainment Marketing
DVD Release Date September 30, 2008


On listening to the commentary track with the director Clayton Jacobson and Kenny, I learned that this film was shot over the course of two and one half years. The commentary track is well worth a second viewing (or, in my case the third) of this marvelous fim. It will be sent to my son Mitchell for viewing by the next generation in the Midwest USA.

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