Monday, September 21, 2015


The story is a kind of urban legend, hell it was on a show exploring urban legends. Its the sort of WTF story that you think is joke but as John Wood's mother says "Its a humorous story that has it's roots in tragedy". The film about what happened when a leg was gound in a grill starts off very funny, but by the end it has changed into an unexpected moving film, with some sad parts and a big lift in the heart.

The story begins when Shannon Whisnant bought a smoking grill at a storage locker sale. When he got the grill home he found that inside the the grill was a human foot and calf. Th police were called and the leg and foot ended up at a local funeral home until it could be sorted out who it belong to. The leg belonged to a man named John Wood, and he wanted it back. It seems that John had to have it amputated after a plane crash and he wanted to use it as part of a memorial to his father who was killed in the crash. You may have seen some of this play out on TV, but I'm pretty certain you haven't seen the whole story.

Shot off and on over seven years the film follows John and Shannon as the two men fight over ownership of the leg and have their lives forever altered as a result of  it. As the filmmakers said after the screening I attended the film is really about two psychically linked "twins" both with addiction problems, John to drugs and alcohol and Shannon to being in front of a camera. Both men are struggling to make their way in the world and deal with fathers who over shadowed their lives for better or worse.

This is one of those films that I want to tell you everything about but I don't want to ruin for you by telling you everything that happen so I'm not going to do that.

What I am going to tell you is that this is deeply moving story. Its a story that really does seem like a joke at the start, but by the end of the it's still humorous but isn't really a joke. That the film is so moving is a testament to John Wood. Wood is just this guy who is trying to get by in life. Unfortunately for a chunk of his life that meant taking too many pills and too much drink. Its the habits that breaks his family apart- yet at the same time there is something about John that has you pulling for him. There really is something special about him and it's that something that makes this film work.

Wood was a surprise guest at the sneak preview screening I attended.  From my brief interaction with him how he is in the film is how he is in real life. He doesn't have any answers. He doesn't know why his life has gone this way, all he knows is it has and he's gotten to a place where he's working to mend fences and rebuild bridges. Seeing John in person just was really cool because he really is just a nice guy in the best sort of way.

Shannon Whisnant, the story’s “evil twin” comes off less well than John. A big blustery guy, he’s largely cock-sure as all hell. Quick with a joke, possessing a drive to make a buck and a burning desire to be a TV star he’s pretty sure that he has all the angles covered. The trouble is that his bravado is tiring and you soon kind of hope that he has some fall from grace. However by the end you feel really bad for him because everything he thought about his life has fallen away. At the Q&A the directors said that they softened the ending of Shannon’s story since by the time the film premiered at Sundance Shannon's life had taken some turns for the worse and he was doing time in prison for “something minor” (And full disclosure after I tweeted that I posted pictures from the Q&A Shannon tweeted at me that the best guest wasn't there)

The ones you really feel sorry for are the people in orbit around both John and Shannon since they had to put up with a great deal of crap. Where the pair were firmly in the spotlight and everything was happening to them, everyone else was pushed to the side and kind of abused. Their behavior alienated everyone around them. With John his substance abuse complicated his sister’s life and made him estranged from his mom. In Shannon’s case the need to be front and center and not look like a fool made put his life in spiral and broke his marriage. Until the filmmakers came along no one ever asked about the friends and family their opinions about anything. We are lucky that Clay Tweel and Brian Carberry talked to them because some of the best moments and most revealing statements come not from John and Shannon but the people around them. According to the directors once everyone started talking they unloaded everything telling the story from their point of view, even John’s mother who reluctantly agreed to a short interview ended up talking to them for a five hour extended interview.

I have to say my heart broke for Shannon’s wife since it was clear to her very early on that Shannon is chasing something he could never have on his terms and worse it’s a dream his wife cannot be part of unless she disappears into the background –a fact witnessed by his intrusion into her interview. Why the hell is she still with him since she clearly is much too good for him?

This film is incredible. Starting off as joke the film then slowly worms its way into your heart. When the film ended I was applauding. I also got excited that the Q&A was going to included John as well. I was moved (as was John who said sections still move him to tears)

Go see this film It will move you and make you feel good about our ability to move on and change for the better.

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