Sometimes, an outside perspective is best to truly comment on our fair county--only someone not from here, for instance, can best note our roiling ethnic and class tensions. But sometimes, the outsider gets so swayed by our infamous mystique that their commentaries fall flat, if not plain fail.
That's what happened last night, when HBO debuted Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County. Directed and produced by Alexandra "Do Reviewers Always Have to Mention I'm Nancy's Daughter?" Pelosi, the documentary could've been a searing indictment of us. Instead, it was pablum mixed with sap mixed with all the metaphors every created for sugary nonsense.
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I knew Pelosi had an agenda that would cloud her story when she told the Orange County Register television critic Peter Larsen, "I really believe this movie could have been made in any zip code in America, and the people in Orange County are probably not happy that we landed there...But Orange County had it coming to it - with 'The OC,' 'The Real Housewives,' it's portrayed as the place you go to live the American dream."
Actually, Alexandra, most people here don't give a flying shit you did this movie--and that's part of the county's problem you failed to critique or even connect. Sorry, but images of kids seeing the Disneyland fireworks in motel parking lots hardly qualifies as an exposé or even an indictment.
Most of the film follows kids and families that live in motels--that is, when Pelosi's abrasive voice doesn't butt in to influence answers and provoke responses (didn't she ever see Frederick Wiseman films while in college?). Scenes sometimes end in garish freeze-frame flares, a cheap trick I haven't seen since editing loops at Orange Coast College--and even then, the offenders did it to elicit cheap laughs from us, not to address a serious subject.
The only good this docu will do is let others know that poor people exist in Orange County, but the rich have mixed with the poor in media since the days of How the Other Half Lives. If people want to see the finest rendition on the subject, go to your local microfilm machine and loop in the Reg's epic series on motel children from the late 1990s. That treatment didn't resort to gimmicks to tell a powerful tale, one that actually did what great journalism is supposed to do: change minds, spur action. That, unfortunately, is not The Motel Kids of Orange County. Did Pelosi even bother to read the series?