Phoenix Film Festival Review: Eddie Jemison's King of Herrings
When we read up on King of Herrings while deciding which films to go see at this year's Phoenix Film Festival, the peg of a "Tom Waits tips-his-hat-to Woody Allen world" pretty much promised an entertaining, artsy ride into grittiness. However, limiting what King of Herrings does to just those two elements would betray what writer, director, and lead actor Eddie Jemison accomplished in his first feature. From Shakespearean dialogue and themes to a cinematography style that many are comparing to that of John Cassavetes, this indie flick is rich with dramatic and comedic elements.
Courtesy of Allied PR. King of Herrings takes place in a gritty, almost surreal, New Orleans.
If Seinfeld was a show about nothing, King of Herrings is a movie about nothing. There's no major event that holds the plot together. Rather Jemison expertly explores interpersonal relationships between a group of friends who seem to bond over being society's leftovers more so than sharing any actual camaraderie between them. In fact, between the four men, there are two feuding factions, stemming from the insult of a $9 IOU.
On one end, there's The Professor, who is owed the small amount of money, and Leon, a man who speaks through a electronic voice box after surgery for throat cancer. On the other, there's Ditch, a Napoleonic instigator with a short fuse played by Jemison, and his somewhat loyal friend, Gat.
After a standoff, which included a direct Shakespearean reference when The Professor bit his thumb at Ditch rather than shaking his hand in a local diner, the two groups separate, with The Professor attempting to seduce Ditch's lonely, waifish wife Mary. The feud escalates, and while Mary, who is played by Jemison's wife, seems to be the victim of the whole plot, she's the only one to come out on the better end of it once all is said and done, like Nora in A Doll's House or one of Woody Allen's heroines.