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Radiant City - documentary DVD review
RADIANT CITY Unrated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 stars
Featuring: Hong Cheng, Kyle Grant, Amanda Guenther, Daniel Jeffrey, Mikeala Jeffrey, Bob Legare
Directors: Jim Brown and Gary Burns   Distributor: Koch Lorber Films
DVD release: 04 March 2008   Runtime: 85 min. (1 disc)
Format: Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Languages (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround - English), Closed captioned (English), Trailer

80% of all buildings standing in the world today have been built in the last 50 years.

In 1969, 50% of all school children in North America either walked or rode their bike to school. Now, over 90% are driven to school.

The average North American spends 440 hours a year, or 55 eight hour work days, just driving to and from work.

The leading cause of death among teens in North America: car accidents. Second: suicide.

The above revelations were all brought to my attention by the unique, funny yet disturbing film Radiant City, which simply focuses on the daily routine of typical North American suburbanites.

The Moss family could not be more cookie-cutter suburban: dad drives an hour to and from work each day, while mom runs the home and tends to the three children - an adolescent boy and girl, plus a toddler.

Mom's schedule board is a work of art. She has each family member's chores and activities for the month scheduled in for each day, plus a color-coordinated magnet for each family member. Woe to the one who accidentally bumps into the board (as the son notes that he did once, much to his regret).

The film interweaves the daily routine of the Mosses with findings and opinions of sociologists, professors and authors, each noting findings and opinions - some funny, some alarming -about how Suburbia came into being, and how it goes against the grain of how civilization has previously existed. (Most societies were formed when tribes came together to form a community-suburbia is a branching away from community. Dwellings throughout history typically had an open area in the front of the home in order to meet and welcome visitors. The typical suburban den faces the backyard-away from the road).

While the film is quite funny overall, a dark undercurrent runs through it. Dad does not seem particularly affectionate toward Mom; when he is not at work, he seems to prefer the companionship of a drinking buddy, as well as immersing himself in a local play. Mom is seemingly too concerned with maintaining the perfect suburban home and is offended that her husband's play seems to mock suburbia. She also goes into a near rage when the husband's car breaks down, thus upsetting her routine. The eldest daughter barely has time to think. When she's not in school, she has four hours of gymnastics three times a week, plus piano on Wednesday. And the son? He seems to have an interest in guns.

Radiant City is a funny, albeit dark, comedy a profound commentary on the way many of us live today definitely worth seeing. The last line of the film in particular hits home and sums up the film beautifully:
"We chase these jobs and perfect ideas of why life really is, but we never get to stop and enjoy what it is that we're chasing. So many people are unhappy with the situation that they put themselves in - hopefully; I can get out of that."
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reviewed by Trent Daniel
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