Grand Theft Parsons

Grand Theft Parsons


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

You couldn't make it up. Famous country rocker dies and his best pal and roadie decides to honour a promise to take his body out to the Joshua Tree and "set his spirit free", the only problem being that he has to steal it first. So, you couldn't make it up, but you could take some liberties with the actual events for comic and dramatic effect, which is what director David Caffrey does here.

Roadie Phil Kaufman (Johnny Knoxville) gets the call he's been dreading. Gram Parsons (Gabriel Macht) has died of an overdose and he wasn't there to prevent it. He remembers his promise and hatches a plan to steal the body and fulfil his pledge before it can be flown home for burial.

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There are a few problems, however. Firstly, Kaufman only has a motorbike - not exactly suitable for cadaver carrying - so he hires a beaten up (not to mention bright yellow) hearse from doped up hippy Larry (Michael Shannon), lying to him about the real purpose of the trip when he insists on coming along for the ride. Secondly, Parsons' strung-out ex-girlfriend Barbara (Christina Applegate) wants the body too, so that she can stake a claim on his wealth and, thirdly, Parsons' dad (Robert Forster) is in town to pick up his son's remains.

What ensues is a road trip out into the desert, as hippy Larry and redneck rocker Phil bicker while being chased by old man Parsons, the State police and Barbara. The script is intelligent and snappy, sliding smoothly from drama to comedy and back again. There are a couple of laugh-out-loud gags, but mostly Caffrey reins in the humour, using it to bounce the plot along, not allowing it to make a mockery of the more serious aspects of the film.

Don't let Knoxville's Jackass pedigree put you off - he can be subtle as well as gross. Shannon's spaced-out hippy provides the perfect foil and while the female characters are little more than plot devices, there's nothing to quibble about in their performances.

When it comes to the truth, Caffrey has stretched the boundaries. Did Kaufman steal Parsons' corpse? Yes. Did he drive it out into the desert in a beaten up hearse? Definitely. Was he followed by Gram's father and a psychotic ex-girlfriend? Er, no. In fact, Parsons' father committed suicide when his son was still a child and the girlfriend seems to be merely a fabrication.

Does this matter? Actually, not really. Forget about the fact that this is based on a true story and head out on the highway for a memborable rock'n'roll road trip.

Reviewed on: 18 Mar 2004
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True story of a biker's journey into the desert with a coffin to fulfil Gram Parsons' last request.
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Director: David Caffrey

Writer: Jeremy Drysdale

Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Robert Forster, Christina Applegate, Michael Shannon, Gabriel Macht, Marley Shelton

Year: 2003

Runtime: 88 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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