America’s Heart & Soul (review)

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It’s the perfect film for that most uncritically patriotic of holidays, the Fourth of July, all slo-mo stars-and-stripes in the warm breeze of apple-pie freedom and the golden light of soft-focus diversity. We’re the best! director Louis Schwartzberg cheers. There’s no denying that the United States is bursting with perfectly lovely and wonderful and funky people, like the series of all-American characters Schwartzberg very briefly documents in this series of vignettes. Like the “last cowboy around Telluride” who rides his horse right into the saloon like something out of an old movie. Or the really cool cliff dancers in Northern California who’ve married modern choreography to rock-climbing. Or the Vermont dairy farmer who makes films in his barn. Or the semicrazy Colorado guy who blows up stuff like old TVs and hocks of ham for fun. But Schwartzberg, making his feature debut here, lets clichés predominate — even if you didn’t know that he’s founder of a company that supplies stock footage, you’d have guessed it from his pretty but flavorless imagery: eagles soaring, fog enshrouding the Golden Gate, purple mountains majesty. In this spun-sugar vision of America, some people may be poor, but they’re happy, and some people may be rich, but they’re not about the money. It’s a pleasant vision, sure, but an hour and a half of it is like too much ice cream.

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