Ready to Work: Portraits of Braddock (Aaron Rose, 2010)
[note: review originally published 25Sep2010]
Braddock, Pennsylvania, is a suburb of Pittsburgh that had fallen deep, deep into disrepair when the steel industry bottomed out. About a year and a half ago, I ran across a random magazine article about Braddock’s new mayor, John Fetterman, and his radical ideas about revitalization. I was sold. (I’m still working on convincing my wife.) Then I found out about this made-for-IFC documentary and gave it a watch. Man, magazine articles just don’t give you the real flavor of a place, do they?
There’s a great scene here where a lifelong Braddock resident is being interviewed. POP. POP. She turns halfway around, casually says “oh, there’s some gunshots now,” and then goes back to what she was saying. You don’t get that sort of thing in a magazine article, at least not one in a business magazine. Radical mayor or no radical mayor, Braddock is still a pretty ugly place to be. But Rose (Beautiful Losers) provides a balanced portrait of the town, interviewing the optimistic and the cynical, showing successes and failures, letting the town do its own talking. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some manipulation to be had here;
it’s obvious that Rose sees Braddock as a town on its way up, and he devotes the majority of the film time to that position. But it never becomes a cheap tourism video or travel guide; Braddock is obviously still mired in the debris of its recent past, and the camera eye doesn’t blink when it finds decay and squalor.
I liked it, but it certainly didn’t help convince my wife any. *** ½
The full movie, available for streaming in IFC.