Sweaty Betty

Don't let that title throw you. Joe Frank and Zachary Reed's rambling neighborhood comedy Sweaty Betty isn't dopey, or sweaty, and I don't recall meeting anyone in it named Betty. There is a thousand-pound hog named Miss Charlotte, decked out in Washington Redskins gear and paraded around to tailgaters, but that vision's just one of those things that happens in America -- real people getting up to real strangeness, because what else are they going to do?

The film is an improvised study of exurban life, a no-stakes hang-out pleasure starring real folks from the row houses of Hyattsville, Maryland, a low-income community on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. It's shot on commercial-grade cameras from Best Buy, and everyone in it is playing themselves, improvising on situations dreamed up by the directors but taken from their own lives.

Hyattsville is one of those outskirts community built a couple generations back, primarily African-American, lacking recent development, not urban nor rural, just paved. The film's long second scene features two likable young men, both fathers, ragging on their too-few restaurant choices but finding some excitement in the rumor that a pizza joint's coming in. That scene, like those young men's day, drifts past for quite a while without incident. Sweaty Betty is unrushed, and its directors rarely cut, even when their own shadows edge into the frame. These men, Rico (Rico Mitchell) and Scooby (Seth Dubose), know that there's something out there worth doing. This isn't hard-times reportage or a deep-dive ethnography. It's a life-as-it's-lived picture, a chance to meet and loiter with the people in the places the interstates zip past.

Credits

Directors:

  • Joseph Frank
  • Zachary Reed

Cast:

  • Seth Dubois
  • Floyd Rich
  • Rico S.

Writers:

  • Seth Dubois
  • Joseph Frank

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