From the get-go, our internationally-renowned neighborhood scandal, the JonBenet Ramsey murder, had TV movie written all over it. It had upper-class sheen, infant-beauty-pageant perversity, and tantalizing whodunnitness. Our latest local murder lacks all such glamor. The characters are sad, dumb, and pathetic and, to make matters worse, everyone already knows whodidit. Fodder for what sort of film? The answer should be screamingly obvious to movie aficionados.
Here are the facts as they have been extensively reported locally. Tess Damm (note transparent symbolism of name), an in-and-out-of-trouble somewhat trashy 15-year-old, persuades her boyfriend, Bryan Grove, to kill her alcoholic and abusive mother Linda. Bryan obediently does the deed by stabbing Mom Damm in the "throat and mouth." The kids, however, don't have a clue how to dispose of the body, so they stow it in the back seat of the Subaru. While it festers, the young 'uns cavort. Neighbors tell reporters that that "the teens were seen coming and going at all hours of the night, 'car-surfing' through the neighborhood and blaring loud music." After a raucous month of celebration in which they spend the $4000 in Mom's bank account, the murderers come to the realization that it might be good idea to dispose of the evidence. They solicit the aid of third young malefactor. (Possible dialog: Bryan: "Hey dude, want to, like, help us get rid of a, like, corpse." Jared: "Cool.") They head out to the Erie landfill, but the car gets stuck in the mud and so they return home. The next night, they try again: they drive to a local cemetery (a stroke of pure cinematic genius!) but because the ground is frozen, they can dig only one or two feet into the ground. The bury the body, but, panicked that the shallow grave will be noticed, they return the next night, exhume Mom and return her to the Subaru. At this point, just as the story is becoming weirder than weird, an "anonymous tipster" notifies the police and thereby cries "cut" to the youthful criminals.
It's probably too morbid and half-baked for a broadcast TV movie, but can anyone deny that the story is made to order for Joel and Ethan Coen? Some typical Coen Brothers elements: truly sleazy characters; rampant brainlessness; the inability of the participants to look even a few moments into the future; gruesome details; gratuitous blood and gore; very, very, black humor; and, finally, the opportunity to satirize American mores. What could be more perfect? It's a Coen Brothers world after all. Can the argument be taken a step further? The adventures of Tess and Bryan and Linda couldn't possibly have occurred until Joel and Ethan had made and exhibited Blood Simple and Fargo. The murder -- and the macabre and superbly noir series of actions that follow -- would not have been possible without a literary precedent. Once gain, Life can do no better than slavishly tread in the Footsteps of Art.