Top Ten Movies of 2020 — Number Eight

When siblings Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross rolled their camera inside the dive bar The Roaring 20s, the story was fiction and the drinks were real. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets was introduced to film festival attendees as a documentary, capturing the final day of operation for a Las Vegas drinking establishment almost entirely populated with regulars, the sort of bedraggled barflies who spend entire days — entire lifetimes, it seems — perched on a stool accepting a steady procession of generous pours. Instead, the Rosses shot the film over the course of a couple days in a New Orleans bar, with locals recruited to improvise through basic scenarios. The approach renders an expected authenticity to the proceedings, properly conveying the landscape of emotions in such a place: the camaraderie, the sadness, the revelry, the randiness, and the lurking resentments. It all comes togethers marvelously, a tragicomic swirl of experiences lit by beer-logo neon. The film recalls Richard Linkater’s marvelous Slacker in its depiction of outcasts in all their society-skirting glory. At a time of shuttered businesses and physical distancing, Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets picks up an added poignancy, though the wounding honesty of patrons tearing up at the loss of one of the only places where they feel seen and respected carries power in any era of American life.

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