I don’t know why or how this movie flew under everyone’s radar. A Crooked Somebody is an ambitious black comedy with a surprisingly good cast. It follows Michael Vaughn, a fake psychic struggling to make ends meet as he travels from town to town. However, all of that is about to change as he meets a mysterious stranger. And that stranger is none other than Clifton Collins Jr. and the reason why we’re talking about this movie today. As I was scrolling through his filmography I saw this little hidden gem and decided to check it out. The story seemed straightforward enough and I knew that Clifton almost always makes good choices.
You might call this movie a quirky indie comedy but I think it’s much deeper than that. Just look at the themes it explores religion, psychic powers, grief, family, ambition, and ultimately forgiveness. And it explores them in a very casual way, not like your average pretentious dramedy. However, you might also call A Crooked Somebody a poignant character study. And a study of our society in general. I still cannot believe that people attend these psychic readings thinking they’re communicating with the dead. That fact alone says something about our society.
It also tells us just how big of a problem is the loss of a loved one and how ill-equipped we are to deal with such an event. And while all of these are quite serious subjects, the movie has this subversive, darkly comical tone. A tone of an American Dream where there are no rules and only two types of people: winners and losers. Rich Sommer was excellent as Michael along with Ed Harris who played his father, a priest no less. Although I must admit that Amanda Crew as Stacy stole the show for me here. After all, it’s been almost ten years since I saw her in Sex Drive and she’s a terrific actress.
Meet Michael Vaughn, a determined fake psychic who wants to make it more than anything. He knows that people have done it before and what steps they took so why not follow them on this path of glory? And while Michael is the star of his small show, his business partner Chelsea is the brains behind the operation. After a reading goes surprisingly well in one small town, something very important is going to happen. Something that’s going to change a lot of lives, including theirs too.
How far would you be willing to go to live the life you think you deserve? Would exploiting people’s vulnerabilities would be off the table? What’s really the difference between a psychic reader and a priest? Or a marketing executive or corporate overlord? The world is a shitty and immoral place and it takes a lot of personal strength to remain a straight arrow. I personally think there’s no other choice than this but that’s just me. And before we get too philosophical let’s get back to the movie. Now, A Crooked Somebody is not a perfect movie.
Oddly enough, I think that the lack of quirky music punctuating some of the lines was its biggest flaw. Also, it feels a bit stretched, with certain sections taking up way too much time. On the plus side, you simply don’t know where they’re going with all of this. The story keeps taking these turns that keep you engaged and wanting to know what’s going to happen next. It’s these little movies that no one ever heard of I like recommending the most. They feature stories about ordinary men and women that can not only make us laugh but also think.
Finally, I can’t help but mention James Randi, a famous debunker who exposed many fake psychics. Not that there are real ones mind you. Do check a documentary about his life An Honest Liar, it’s a hood. And while we’re recommending things, Red Lights starring Cillian Murphy, Robert De Niro and Sigourney motherfucking Weaver is also a good choice. It follows a psychologist investigating a world-renowned psychic who’s about to do a big show.
Director: Trevor White
Writer: Andrew Zilch
Cast: Rich Sommer, Clifton Collins Jr., Joanne Froggatt, Ed Harris, Amanda Crew, Paul Ben-Victor
Fun Facts: After its premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 21, 2017 it was finally released to the general public more than a year later.