I guess I need to stop approaching local productions with low expectations by default. That’s the ignorant thinking of an old fool, who doesn’t see how the world has changed.
Now, to be both fair and realistic, one thing that really hasn’t necessarily changed is that one does not expect great cinematography from a documentary. This is a genre that usually features static shots of talking subjects intercut with some kind of archival footage that is often amateur by definition — not the stuff of high production values. A true exception to this general rule comes in the form of The Long Haul: The Story of the Buckaroos, which focuses on, of all things, a group of male strippers of diverse body types doing performative cowboy masculinity at Seattle’s own Can Can.
Director Amy Enser began filming in 2014, and offers a portrait of what was, then at least, the five core guys performing in the show, how they got to be involved, how it changed their lives, how the show itself evolved. As I write this, I find myself wondering if the show even exists anymore: the Buckaroos website appears to be out of date; no live dates any more recent than 2016 can be found anywhere; their social media links feature no posts any more recent than 2016 either. Maybe I should have stayed for the entire Q&A after the SIFF world premiere screening of this film after all.
Well, whatever, the film tells a compelling, often delightful, certainly colorful, and by turns sexy and funny story about these guys who play a fictional group of long haul truck drivers. Or cowboys. Construction workers. You get the idea. You’d think the movie would generate interest in their live shows, assuming those shows still existed. Maybe the hunky red head who was the driving force behind the show’s creative decisions, who retired from the show after ten years of performing in it during filming, was a harbinger of its end?
The film itself offers no insight as to the fate of the show itself, but rather stands as a unique, refreshing take on performative sexuality, as seen through the gaze of a female director. This is markedly different from how any movie about female strippers by a male director could ever even hope to be. It certainly has a more egalitarian vibe to it. Any many of the group’s dance numbers are featured, impressively shot with swooping camera movements and vivid lighting.
It’s not super surprising that the group of men in this show is not super diverse in terms of ethnicity — all but the one black man are white — but, there is something to the diverse array of body types on display: some guys more conventionally attractive than others; one a bit skinny; one who weighs 280 pounds, who gets some of the greatest cheers from the crowd. None of them is especially chiseled. Most of them are straight, but with an unusual comfort engaging with naked male sexuality. What Amy Enser’s direction shows is how these guys prove that anyone can be sexy if they just know how to own it. Different performers are seen talking about how working in the show helped them overcome shyness or body image issues. These are not things you see men talking about a lot.
So The Long Haul turns out to have a lot more depth to it than you might expect from a movie about, to greatly oversimplify it, a bunch of male strippers. I went into this expecting something fun, but a lot more breezy and superficial. I left it impressed by some actual substance. This isn’t just some time filler. I would actually recommend watching it, however you might find it in the hopefully near future. I had a great time with it and am confident you will too.