If you’re in the mood for a tragicomic documentary, the startlingly original “Finders Keepers” fills the bill. It is a rambling real-life farce dealing with the legal, moral and personal clash of two men in North Carolina.
They enter a long-running dispute over property ownership. One of the men bought a collection of household belongings at a 2007 storage unit auction. The goods included an outdoor grill. When he opened the smoker the new owner discovered that it contained a mummified human leg. The limb’s former owner wanted it returned; after all, he walked on it for four decades. One thing leads to another.
Remember: This is nonfiction.
Directors Clay Tweel and Bryan Carberry have turned an unwarranted battle of wills over personal remains into a report on pigheaded life in America. It may well leave you curled up in the corner sobbing, while howling with laughter. It is a weird tale and they have nailed it.
The main characters are two middle-aged men, each disadvantaged in his own way. Amputee John Wood came from a prosperous family. He lost his left leg in 2004 while flying in their private plane with his father, who lost his life.
Painkillers pushed Wood to addiction, which pushed him away from his mother, who cut him out of the family’s fortune. He intended to use his mummified appendage to build a graveyard shrine to his late father. But he didn’t pay the monthly charges at the storage locker, which brought Shannon Whisnant into the story.
Whisnant, a poor junk vendor with ambitions to be an entrepreneur, reality TV star and movie actor, saw owning Wood’s missing part as the key to fame and fortune. Add to that the fact that since childhood he disliked Wood, whom he considered an uppity snob, and Whisnant’s reasons for returning the AWOL piece shrunk further.
“If you didn’t have your birthday party at John Wood’s house, then you were nobody,” Whisnant recalls. “I guess I’m a nobody.” Revenge! And his dreams of glory seemed to be coming true as the story of their offbeat battle begins to draw worldwide media attention.
☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2
The documentary is playing only at Studio-C Cinema, 9216-A Westmoreland Road, Cornelius.
Cast: John Wood, Shannon Whisnant.
Directors: Bryan Carberry, J. Clay Tweel.
Running time: 82 minutes.
Rating: R (language).