I rarely post reviews for docs here. I love documentaries, especially character studies, but I usually don’t feel like they fit on toxic graveyard. The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia however fits in alongside all the other dark, disgusting and socially aberrant things you would normally find here. See, the White family isn’t your typical bunch, these are rough and tumble outlaws living on the fringes of society and are as attractive as a three car pile up but can’t help staring at.
The White family is a large clan of folk that 50 years ago said enough of the straight life, it’s time for the life of crime. They’re most known for their unique brand of hillbilly tap dancing (I’m not making this up) but locally they’re the scourge of the South. Pill popping, dope dealing, burglars, arsonists, murderers, and yes entertainers. The film starts with introducing their vast family tree and then lets us get to know each of them and their complicated and unique relationships. They have no qualms with stealing from each other, drugs, money, husbands what have you, and then patching things up to go out and “raise some hell.” Their perspective on life is one of reckless abandon. These folks haven’t met a drug they didn’t like and are equal opportunity users. Family gatherings include normal wholesome activities such as grilling up some food and letting the kids play, but they also include snorting oxy and smoking weed and or meth. But their constant debauchery isn’t really the point here. Its just one piece in a much larger puzzle that makes up this film. No subject is taboo, even detailed descriptions of felonious activity including attempted murder, and that kind of open honesty is rarely seen these days. Many of us are too busy considering someone else’s feelings and trying not to say anything politically incorrect for fear of becoming a social outcast. These folks couldn’t care less, what you see is what you get. They live their lives saying what the feel and doing what they want and that kind of freedom is almost nonexistent in contemporary American society, and I feel that it’s that mentality that used to define us as Americans. Make no mistake though, this film does not portray these people as heroes. We see them, warts and all in what feels like and honest portrait of the craziest American family. But we also see their humanity and their compassion too so they cannot be completely written of as complete pariahs either.
The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia is a fascinating portrait of an outlaw American family and is highly entertaining and endlessly quotable. I know for a fact I’ll be quoting this one all year long. It’s the perfect flick to catch with some friends so that you may have dozens of in joke fun. The soundtrack is great too, much of the music provided by Hank III which should please hellbilly fans as well. Truly a remarkable film that continues to stick with me. Highly Recommended.