I just never bought Milwaukee, Minnesota, never really got into it, never much cared about the characters.
It’s the story of a retarded man who is sort of an idiot savant. Well, pretty much all idiot except that he is a savant when it comes to ice fishing. He has an uncanny ability to anticipate the actions of the fish, and he uses that to win fishing tournaments. Over time he accumulates significant money and prizes from these tournaments.
He leads a sheltered life, under the care of an overprotective mother. After she is murdered, various con artists descend on him to separate him from his money. Meanwhile, we gradually learn more about the roles various present characters played in his past.
As I say, this movie never did it for me. Rarely do I complain that a movie makes things too obvious, but in the early stages of this movie it was like the characters were reciting what they were doing and their motives for doing so. Especially the mother. Instead of just showing her behavior and letting the viewers infer that she is obsessively overprotective, the filmmaker has her verbalize a lot of it—“I do everything for you because you could never make it on your own,” etc. The retarded guy himself thinks aloud at times to keep you abreast of what’s going on inside him, again because the filmmaker lacks confidence that it can be inferred from the action and dialogue.
Beyond those early stages, the film is not unusually easy to follow like that. In fact, I’m still not entirely sure of some of what happened. I think it is only a little obscure though; the more important factor is I was bored by then and not paying full attention.
For the most part, I didn’t think what the characters did was believable. I’m not sure I could even put my finger on why, but it just didn’t flow smoothly from what we knew about them so far (or from human nature in general). For example, that the murderer will eventually go soft is predictable as a movie cliché, and implausible as reality.
The sidekick of the murderer is made gratuitously quirky, I guess for humor, but it falls flat. Most of what the characters in this movie are doing is pretty grim and horrible; incorporating some light “indie” elements just seems incongruous.
The acting is largely unconvincing, with the female lead seeming the most amateurish to me. It’s too apparent throughout that this is a movie, that one would never come across these people and these situations in real life.
I will give it this: I normally don’t comment much on visuals, because I’m not that visual a person, but I did think the closing sequence of the lone figure walking across the seemingly boundless expanse of ice was very cool.
Maybe if I had been in a different mood I would have gotten a little more out of Milwaukee, Minnesota and regarded it as OK. I doubt seriously I’d be a big fan under any circumstances, but I could see myself enjoying it a bit more than I did.