Eats of Eden

The first thing you should know about handyman Lucky Striche (that's "Strike") is that he isn't -- very lucky, that is, at least when it comes to money and love. Then there's the Shady Shade Trailer Park, where Lucky lives and works; it seems devoid of verdant growth of any kind. Enter Lucky's mama, a rusty tart named Miss Kitty with an unfortunate wagering affliction and a library of wigs and costumes; she looks one day like a mod Morticia, the next like a Hee Haw reject. Nothing's quite as it seems, but this doesn't bother Lucky so long as he knows the honest, true company of his great passion -- food, most especially barbecue.

Barbecue ... a love story is the work of first-time feature filmmaker Stacy Kirk, a Kingwood native now living in Vancouver. The indie was shot in Canada but set in an unnamed small town in East Texas, where days consist of Lucky arguing with his deeply frustrated wife, Trish, helping Miss Kitty do her hair, expounding on the nature of men and wimmen with trailer-park manager Otis-Earl and, of course, eating. Throughout, we hear a grizzled voice-over giving instructions on proper barbecuing technique -- slow-cooked meat standing in, as Kirk puts it, for "the insidious nature of desire."

Barbecue deals with some mighty white-trash cliches, but Kirk resists plain parody -- thanks, in part, to her eye for composition and her gift for the twisted grace note. With a background in fine-art still photography, Kirk makes the Barbecue Palace look like a gloomy Edward Hopper painting. Actors Peter Flemming and Suzy Joachim add aching poignancy as Lucky and Trish. Lucky's so terminally clueless that when he says he likes both breast and thigh, he means chicken; Trish, who seems to understand her husband's simple pleasures but refuses to cater to them, is left putting out yet another cigarette in yet another plate of uneaten food.

"The crazy thing about it," says Kirk, "is I'm a vegetarian." She laughs, but this makes sense given her film's grasping emotional tone, which puts Kirk in line with the lonesome Trish, who knows that life has more to offer than Tuesday's special and a choice of sides.

-- Caryl Herfort

Barbecue ... a love story: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 25. The Rice Media Center, Rice University entrance 8 (University and Stockton), 527-4853. $5.


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