Written and directed by Chusy Haney-Jardine, Anywhere, U.S.A. won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance for 'independent spirit;' the phrasing of the explanatory language in that award says almost everything you need to know about his film, and at the same time doesn't say nearly enough. Anywhere, U.S.A. revolves around three separate stories -- a torn relationship, a family born of crisis, an old man's journey of self-discovery -- but those brief capsules can't possibly convey the loopy energy and bizarre brilliance Haney-Jardine splashes up on screen in strong, sloppy brush strokes.
And I don't use that metaphor lightly; at times, Anywhere, U.S.A. feels more like a modern art project than a film. Haney-Jardine's film mixes striking still photos, text overlaid the images on the screen, a wry sense of the absurd in the everyday, the capacity to see the banal in the extraordinary, and the capacity to find the extraordinary in the every day. Internet chat, sexual frustration and snack food selection somehow become a hotbed of international intrigue; a man's innocent stories for his niece clash with her brutal experience of life so far; a man's quest to broaden the horizons of his racial experience has a bizarre conception and woefully bungled execution. Haney-Jardine's film takes place among the trailer parks and strip malls and clean McMansions of anywhere, U.S.A., but it had a distinctly southern flavor as well, from the simple drawl of the phrase 'y'all' to the complexities of race and history. At its best, Anywhere, U.S.A. played like a hickory-smoked take on the same kind of modern mischief Miranda July showed us in You, Me and Everyone We Know.