Finders Keepers (Alternately: America, America, This is You)
I was recently having a conversation with a documentarian about marketing documentaries, and she was telling me that sometimes it's hard when you have a very complicated story to get all the information across to your audience, but also make it entertaining, but also condense it into 90 minutes. You want to connect to the largest audience possible, but you also want to tell the story you set out to tell in the first place. This led us to talking about how there's an audience for every story, and how a story can seem like the most dull idea on paper, but in the hands of an expert storyteller it becomes the most compelling documentary onscreen. I then asked if she'd heard about a little film called Finders Keepers, my latest documentary obsession. She hadn't, and ooooooh BOY. I told her ALL about it. Since I first saw Finders Keepers on Netflix a few months ago, I haven't been able to stop telling people about it. Minutes after it ended I texted a friend and told her she needed to see this film. Here's my compelling synopsis:
Yep. That's pretty much it. The first 15 minutes or so of the movie are some of the most uproariously funny moments I've ever seen on film. I was laughing so hard, tears were streaming down my face, I was clapping my hands, I was a complete mess. And then the documentary takes a turn and you get to see the tragedy behind the lunacy of the leg debacle. The man that lost his leg, John, was in a plane crash that killed his father, and he never really recovered from that loss. He lost his leg in the accident too, and asked to have the leg back so that he could use it to make a memorial to his father. John expected to get bones. He got a severed leg in a trash bag.
John decides to try to mummify the leg himself (this is the knee-slappingly hilarious part) and eventually it ends up in a smoker, and the smoker ends up in a storage unit that his mother has agreed to pay three months rent for. John becomes homeless and lives under a bridge (this is part of the tragedy bit I mentioned earlier) and cannot pay the rent on the storage unit, so it goes up for auction. Shannon comes and decides to bid on the unit, and wins. When he opens the smoker and finds the leg, he sees dollar signs. Shannon has always wanted fame, and he tries to turn the leg into a sort of tourist attraction. Then a battle starts between Shannon and John over who is the rightful owner of the leg. John argues that it is biologically a part of him, and Shannon argues that in storage unit auctions, whatever's in the unit when it's sold becomes the property of the auction winner, and he has a receipt.
The battle over the leg gets so intense that the men eventually find themselves on Judge Mathis, where the honorable TV judge rules that Shannon is correct in his assertions about storage auction rules, but it's a human leg, so dude, give it back. Mathis also pulls John aside and says, "So you're on a crapload of drugs, huh?" and sends him to fancy rehab to get clean. Shannon continues to chase fame, and John tries to repair the broken relationships he has with his family while also trying to find a way to turn his mummified leg into a memorial to his lost father (It involves an amateur forensic veterinarian). In the end, John concedes that while this was a horrible trial to go through, his ordeal with Shannon saved his life. He was a homeless addict living under a bridge, estranged from his family, with no hope left in his life. At the end of the film he's sober, in love, and has reconnected with his family. All because a man found his severed, mummified leg in a smoker.