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Happy Valley
Happy Valley
Actor: n/a
Genres: Documentary
PG-13     2008     1hr 30min

Studio: Rivercoastfilms Dist Release Date: 08/12/2008 Run time: 90 minutes Rating: Pg13


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Movie Details

Actor: n/a
Genres: Documentary
Sub-Genres: Documentary
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 08/12/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

White Mormons on Dope
James Higgins | 07/25/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

"While not disclosed in the film, it appears that `Happy Valley' was filmed in Utah County, Utah.

The film starts with some man-in-the-street interviews about the scope of drug abuse in Utah County, and the state of Utah as a whole. We are shown statistics to the effect that Utah is among the leading states in terms of the number of drug abusers and suicides. There is some speculation on the part of the interviewees as to whether practicing Mormonism (i.e., The Church of the Latter Day Saints), with its proscriptions on drinking alcohol, somehow predisposes believers to pursue alternate highs from pills, heroin, and cocaine.

The documentary then follows the lives of several addicts (and family members) residing in Happy Valley. The central narrative concerns the grieving parents of Amelia Sorich, an 18 year-old who died in June 2005 of an overdose after her 19 year-old friend Macall Petersen injected Amelia with a `speedball' of heroin and cocaine. When Petersen and her boyfriend Jasen Calacino found Sorich unconscious on the kitchen floor, they laid her on a couch and went off to sleep. The next morning Sorich was dead; Petersen and Calacino toted her corpse to a crude grave in the mountains near Bountiful. Eventually both teens confessed, and there is footage of an interview with Petersen conducted while she is in prison, serving a term for negligent homicide (Petersen was released on parole in March of 2009).

Among the other addicts participating in the documentary are Danny Allen, an articulate `family man' and Salt Lake City TV personality of seeming affluence, who purchases heroin from Greg, a dealer whose own smack habit has relegated him to eking out an existence in a cramped, cluttered bedroom lined with photographs of his college sports triumphs and other mementos of Glory Days long passed.

Later in the film director R. K. Williams returns to Macall Petersen and her relationship with her mother Nancy. I won't spoil the remainder of the documentary, but I will say there are some Revelations. In light of these revelations, Williams's efforts to manipulate Amelia Sorich's parents into forgiving Macall Petersen take on a decidedly..... unsavory.... light.

Indeed, I finished watching the film more than a little exasperated with director Williams's calculatedly disingenuous approach to the topic of Happy Valley and tales of middle class white people on drugs. Too easily do the interviewed addicts summon tears and self-pity for the benefit of the film crew. Too often do they remark, in choked voices, how their participation in the documentary may `help people'. Too readily does Williams offer soothing words of comfort and empathy when addicts going Cold Turkey whine about how much pain and discomfort they are feeling. Too often does Williams intone maudlin Pop Psychology banalities over Bad Folk playing on the soundtrack.

When Macall Petersen is filmed in her prison visiting room holding up to the camera a crude, hand-drawn sign reading `I am still somebody', while overwrought emo music plays in the background, the film oversteps its boundaries as a documentary and is revealed as a cloying piece of agitprop by director Williams.

I imagine some segment of Middle America may find `Happy Valley' unsettling and worrisome. But having walked around the streets of inner-city Bmore or DC and seen straight-up, full-on True Ghetto Junkies in all their wretched, scabby, stinky, Staph aureus-covered glory, it's hard for me to buy into director Williams's argument that Happy Valley represents the epicenter of a growing crisis in American social mores.