Set in the small town of Xevia, Ohio, Gummo is a plotless ramble through the impoverished lives of a loosely-connected group of no-hopers, with the emphasis on a pair of teenagers who scrape a living by killing cats.
Gummo was the Marx Brother who never made a film. Not only is he not mentioned in this movie, but there's no alternative explanation given for his name as the choice of title.
A first directorial feature by the 23-year-old writer of Kids, this seems like a flashback to white trash punk miserabilist fIlms its writer-director is much too young to have seen in a cinema - such as Paul Morrissey's Trash, Jonathan Kaplan's Over The Edge, and Tim Hunter's River's Edge.
Intercutting snippets of apparent home movies and videoed suicide notes with regular scenes, Korine goes for an impression of reality, taking a series of Polaroids of pointless activities - roller-skating on the grass, tearing tape off nipples, wrestling a chair, arguing in sign language, swimming in the rain - and then tossing them away.
The characters all live in unitdy homes piled high with junk, wander aimlessly about nowhere streets, ramble on in a stoned patter, and don't even have the violent outbursts of earlier dead-end movies to look forward to.
In a mostly unfamiliar cast, Reynolds is outstanding as a skinny mutant, and there's a sense of continuity in the casting of Linda Manz - once remarkable as the alienated child of Days Of Heaven and Out Of The Blue and here returning to the cinema as Reynolds' mother.
As horribly funny as it is depressing, it gets pretty hard to take after a while, especially for anyone who is a committed cat-lover. A melancholy edge of deliberate poetry mutes the ugly realism but also serves to make bearable what might otherwise be an hour-and-a-half of hell.