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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

‘Blow the Man Down’: a little film steeped in irony

My local grocery store has, like most others, reduced its hours of business. Moreover, it's reserved the time between 7 and 9 a.m. for seniors.

So, since I fall into that category, I went out this morning at 7:45 just to see what was different. And what I found was … not much. It was basically the same foot traffic as two days ago at 3 p.m. And not everyone I saw was a senior.

Whatever, like everyone else, I've been spending a lot more time inside. And besides reconnecting with friends on social media (some of whom I haven't talked to in months), studying a little Spanish and Italian, and reading (I'm tackling Jill Lepore's American history tome "These Truths: a History of the United States"), I'm watching a lot of new stuff on television.

One of the movies I watched recently carries an interesting title: "Blow the Man Down," which I saw courtesy of Amazon Prime.

The plot is simple enough. Sisters Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) and Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) have just overseen their mother's funeral when they discover that not only did the woman not leave them anything but that they won't even have ownership of their house.

In her anger, the younger Mary Beth runs out, heads for a bar, meets a guy and … well, things don't go well. And quickly enough, she heads back home to seek Priscilla's help. Which involves both in a serious crime.

Meanwhile, the village mothers — who have long endured the presence of a house of prostitution in the town — set out to tell proprietor Enid (Margo Martindale) that she will have to close down. Seems Enid's sole protector was the deceased woman, and the village mothers are tired of the problems the business causes.

The two main subplots combine when the sisters stumble upon a pile of cash that belongs to Enid, and Enid — fighting both the impending shutdown and one of her own disgruntled employees — threatens to expose them if they don't return the ill-gotten gains.

And all the while, a couple of Barney Fife cops are investigating the death of a woman whose body washed up on a local shoreline.

One thing that makes "Blow the Man Down" worth watching is its shifting tone. The acting is good enough, not just by Lowe and Sayjor but by the veteran Martindale. The tone, though, is even more interesting, weaving as it does between a slight sense of comedy and then delving into the more serious (one scene of violence is particularly graphic).

That tone-based sleight-of-hand combined with the story's emphasis on telling the story of women makes this little film part of a larger social movement. And the conceit of having a chorus of grizzled fishermen singing throughout the film is a particularly clever, ironic device.

And who doesn't appreciate a little irony now and then.