River Boys is a touching, funny and poignant Joel and Ethan Coen style riverboat ride through the upheaval that's ripping across the American heartland. Join two lost boys and the wayward girl they meet on the way, on a journey to the meaning of friendhip, redemption and life.
River Boys, all the way.
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Friends since high school, Jimmy and Freefall are first seen together as drunk teenagers with Freefall daring Jimmy to jump with him off of a bridge and into the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh. They jump in and we jump forward in time to Jimmy meeting Freefall in the hospital while Freefall is being released from a grueling regimen of chemotherapy treatment. Jimmy’s way of helping Freefall is to get him his old job back at the warehouse.
Freefall lives on a houseboat on the Ohio River in Pittsburgh. Depressed and alienated from his ordeal, Freefall wants only to unmoor his boat and escape to New Orleans, to, “party hard, eat crawfish, have sex and die”. Since no good deed goes unpunished, Jimmy loses his job trying to get Freefall his job back. This happens after Jimmy and Freefall’s unfeeling boss, Mr Fackler, goads Jimmy into taking a punch at him after insulting and demeaning him. Determined to work, they approach a successful former friend, Mike Johansen, who builds houses using Illegal Aliens as crew. When Mike tells them to fuck off, gloating that he, “doesn’t pay these guys shit” Jimmy and Freefall smash his truck in a parting shot, daring him to call the cops.
Driven to despair, Freefall has lost his veneer of civilization and uses what little money he has to buy lottery tickets. When he scores a winner, he leaves it to Jimmy along with a suicide note. When Jimmy arrives to find that Freefall has failed in his attempt, he is furious and also realizes how desperate things have become for both of them. Unemployed and without prospects Jimmy finds he has little choice but to help Freefall realize his dream and take on the riverboat trip, a trip Freefall reminds Jimmy can only be taken, “All the way.”. Once committed to the river everything gets better. They start having fun and enjoying the taste of freedom. Passing through rural Ohio, Freefall meets Darla, the alluring and abused young woman who turns tricks to survive. Darla is a force of nature, a drug; She intoxicates anyone around her. Jimmy, the good guy, resists, but eventually starts falling for her too. Freefall’s illness and depression has him seeing and talking to crows. The crows serve as a greek chorus to him and the audience. While the characters in the tale begin to see their new lives and new freedom in a fantastical explosion of color, the stifling effects of an America that is crowding out nature are seen like a plague, choking the living rivers and the teeming life that depends on them.
Passing by Cincinnati, a massive gathering of boats illuminates Freefall’s despair. Lightning storms strafe them as they journey through a part of America that is on edge and desperate. In Louisville, Darla’s need for drugs takes them into dangerous and wild scenes. Riots at the Dollar Store, burning cities and natural systems gone wild, contrast with scenes of sublime natural beauty and the pure fun and excitement that Jimmy, Freefall and Darla continue to experience when they are unchained on the river’s freedom. Darla uses the one skill she is confident of: her ability to manipulate men. Freefalll and Darla engage in sex at every chance. Darla then sets her sights on Jimmy and he is falling for her.Along the way, the universe of people and animals living by the river is revealed. Fellow travelers, and the new homeless; refugees from the prison of debt and despair who are finding a new and fulfilling life away from the choke chain of regimented life. Feral youth start to appear. Moored in a quiet cove in Western KY, a feral youth sneaks aboard at dawn and steals money. Freefall and Jimmy dive in and chase the youth through an enchanted forest along the river. Tackling him, he grunts that an accomplice has the cash. Furious, the boys are ready to call the cops when Darla intercedes on his behalf. She knows this boy, she is this boy. In Cairo IL, desolation and grandeur await: The Mississippi River.Once on the Mississippi River, nature becomes the dominant force. The modern river, squeezed by levees and civilization and crowded with commercial traffic, is a wild and dangerous place. With no safe harbor for mile upon mile, traveling down river ultimately proves to be more than they can handle. In Memphis, the contrasts of class and money become even more glaring and start to pull Darla away from the boys. With tension growing between the three of them, engine trouble on the Mississippi Delta, proves to be a climactic moment.
A Cajun Boatman, Captain Randy, comes to the rescue and sets the stage for the final act of the story. As he tows their disabled boat towards Vicksburg, MS, a violent storm overtakes them. They hastily grab valuables and watch helplessly as their houseboat is crushed by a giant towboat in the flashing violence of an apocalyptic thunderstorm. Escaping with their lives, they are dropped in Vicksburg, but in a twinkle of Darla’s beautiful eyes, she disappears with their money. Shaken by the Darla’s betrayal, the boys manage to make the best of it; agreeing that she was indeed quite hot and was after all charging for all the sex that they’d had.
Helped by some locals and determined to see this trip “all the way”, the boys hitch a working ride to New Orleans on tugboat. And sure enough, they make it to New Orleans. Despite a fortuneteller’s prediction of imminent death, the boys hit Bourbon Street in celebration. A long night of deserved revelry ends in a grey dawn and a chilling sight. They come upon a woman being raped by a gang of thugs. Acting on impulse and honor, they grab what is handy and spring to action and are shocked to find the woman is Darla. Jimmy swings his two by four and decks one of the thugs, one of them then pulls a gun and shoots Jimmy. In the chaos and blood, Darla and Freefall aid Jimmy as the New Orleans Police arrive to gun down the perpetrator.With the scene now reversed, Jimmy lies in a hospital bed and is greeted by Freefall and Darla. With Jimmy heading home, Darla breaks down and apologizes to Freefall. He accepts her and in the final scene, they are heading deep into the bayou country together. The trip leaving everybody with the knowledge that you will never find all that the river of your lfe has to bring you, unless you are willing to go all the way.