The Business of Fancydancing

It's understandable that Native Americans are bitter, but the chip on the shoulder of Seymour Polatkin (Evan Adams, Just Watch Me, Smoke Signals) is so enormous that nothing in The Business of Fancydancing can explain it. Polatkin is so distasteful that his demeanor casts a shadow on the entire movie, giving it a bad air of pretension and nullifying anything that writer/director Sherman Alexie (writer of Smoke Signals) was trying to say. Yet, it is a good strong performance for Adams. Polatkin is Native American, a poet, and a homosexual. Needless to say, he is having identity issues, and a return trip to his reservation causes him to confront all these issues. When he left for college with is best friend Aristotle Joseph (Gene Tagaban) he had high hopes of furthering their educations.

Just as it does for many people, college changed both Seymour and Aristotle. The best of friends soon detested each other. Aristotle moved back to the reservation, and Seymour became a famous poet. He wrote about his life on the reservation, often bitterly, and achieved some fame. Paradoxically, Native Americans like Aristotle nurtured an intense hatred for Seymour's work. Their mutual friend Mouse (Swil Kanim) died, and now Seymour, unwelcome by some, is going back. Alexie flashes back and forth in time, showing Seymour and Aristotle in happier days, Mouse, and slowly revealing how things became the way they currently are. Alexie also uses an interview program and a hard-nosed reporter (Rebecca Carroll) who tries to pry through the wall Seymour built around himself.

It all amounts to a lot of nothing. There is a lot of hatred and bitterness floating around, but Alexie doesn't place it in any deep context. The Business of Fancydancing is about one's internal struggles, and when those struggles mean little there's no real point to the film. There are some attempts to place Seymour and Aristotle's issues with each other and with Native Americans in a more general context, but this never really goes anywhere. One of the more interesting characters is Agnes (Michelle St. John, Smoke Signals, Coyote Summer), a college girlfriend of Seymour's. She is half-Jewish, but decided to go teach on the reservation. She is one of the few people there who feels no ill will towards Seymour. She is the only person not fuming at something else. Alexie eventually does reveal why Seymour is so bitter, and when he does, it feels like a cop out. Yes, it is a serious reason, but it is also the same sort of reason screenwriters use when they get lazy and don't feel like doing something original.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 43 minutes, Not Rated but contains language and some mature themes, an easy R.

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