After most of a decade in which this locally-produced indie film was impossible to see, it’s made it to a streaming service. Was it worth the wait?
Recently, a locally filmed, indie movie called Ballin’ in the Fall of America: When Everything Else Fails has been put up on Amazon Prime. The movie, originally released in 2011, was tough to find for a long time, until it was posted on Amazon in late 2019, opening it up to a whole new audience. However, while Ballin’ in the Fall of America has it’s bright moments, it may not be the best way for an international audience to get exposed to Richmond.
The film follows Dee, a struggling black Richmonder who can’t seem to get a break. He gets fired from his job, and is replaced by the white guy he trained. On top of that, he can’t seem to get along with his wife of many years. Meanwhile, his side piece dumps him mere seconds after he loses his job. With a rotten love life and no money to speak of, Dee has to figure out how to get his life back together “when everything else fails.”
So how does the movie hold up? Well, like a lot of indie movies, Ballin’ in the Fall of America has its moments. However, as a whole it fails to deliver a consistently enjoyable experience. Forget any issues with the film’s editing, audio or cinematography (though there are issues there), its story is simply flawed. Like many other independent films, it breaks that age-old rule of storytelling: if a scene does not directly impact the rest of the story, then it has no purpose in the story.
Don’t get me wrong, the main story arc of Dee and his struggle with finances, romance, and self-improvement is actually pretty good. It’s a relatable conflict with a satisfying ending and a positive message rooted in the philosophy of the Nation of Islam. But it’s weighed down by an unnecessary side plot about Dee’s “wannabe-baller” brother. Sure, the side plot fits thematically, but in the end it has absolutely zero impact on Dee’s story. Every scene with Dee’s brother makes very little headway in the progression of Dee’s character. The end result of this is that Ballin’ in the Fall of America runs about 45 minutes longer than it needs to. It’s got likeable enough characters, a satisfying main story arc, and decent writing; it just needs to cut out the padding.
In the end, if you really want to see Richmond represented in a movie, or you are really into the Nation of Islam, Ballin’ in the Fall of America might not be a bad choice for a movie night. But unless you’re the type of person who gets a lot out of those things, it’ll be a struggle to get through.