Humboldt County (film)

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Humboldt County
Humboldt county poster.jpg
Directed by Darren Grodsky
Danny Jacobs
Produced by Jason Weiss
Written by Darren Grodsky
Danny Jacobs
Starring Fairuza Balk
Peter Bogdanovich
Frances Conroy
Madison Davenport
Brad Dourif
Chris Messina
Jeremy Strong
Music by iZLER
Cinematography Ernest Holzman
Release dates
September 26, 2008
Running time
97 mins
Country USA
Language English
Box office $81,364 (USA)

Humboldt County is a 2008 comedy/drama film by Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs. It stars Jeremy Strong, Fairuza Balk, Frances Conroy, Madison Davenport, Brad Dourif, Chris Messina and Peter Bogdanovich. The film made its debut at SXSW on March 7, 2008. It was picked up by Magnolia Pictures and was released on September 26, 2008.[1]


Peter Hadley (Jeremy Strong) is an overachieving medical student at UCLA. Peter earns failing grades from his professor, who is also his father (Peter Bogdanovich) and unable to graduate he becomes bitter and disillusioned. He then meets up with the free spirited Bogart (Fairuza Balk). The two of them go back to her apartment after a night of drinking and have casual sex. Afterwards she gets up to go for a drive and asks Peter if he'd like to come, to which he agrees. The two of them drive northwards through the night and Peter eventually falls asleep. When he wakes up, he finds that Bogart has driven him all the way to Humboldt County. It is here that he meets her family. Jack (Brad Dourif) and Rosie (Frances Conroy) took her in when her family abandoned her, and they became her surrogate parents. He also meets Max (Chris Messina), Jack and Rosie's son and Charity (Madison Davenport), Max's daughter.

After an uncomfortable night in which Peter finds out that they are all involved in farming pot, he finally manages to go to sleep. He is woken up in the morning by Max. When he gets dressed, he finds out that Bogart has left. Stranded and unwilling to call his father for help, Peter's only choice is to take the bus, which won't come for another day. Max enlists him to help him with his marijuana crop, to which Peter reluctantly complies. After a day of working on some irrigation problems, they relax back at Jack and Rosie's. Bob and Steve (played by Directors Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs respectively), friends of Max arrive bloodied and dirty. Some local hicks found their garden, roughed them both up and stole their plants. The next day, Peter helps Max again with his plants. He becomes so focused on it that he misses the bus again. It is after this that he begins to bond with Max and the rest of his family. He quickly falls in love with the place and stops trying to leave, developing feelings similar to Stockholm Syndrome. He begins to understand empathy and love (the thing he lacked, which caused him to fail his final exam in the first place). When Jack asks him what he plans to do after this, Peter is stunned to realize that he'd never thought that there would be an "after this".

His sudden fear that he'd never leave is furthered by a conversation that he has with Bob and Steve in a bar. Steve explains that almost everyone who is in Humboldt County now came there from somewhere else and never left, including Jack and Rosie. He also reveals that he was in Peter's shoes a few years earlier; he was a student at Stanford and followed a girl here and never left. When Peter doubts that their scenarios were the same, Steve also mentions that the girl he followed was Bogart. When they get up to leave, Bob refuses because he sees the guys that stole their plants sitting at a table behind them. While he and Steve argue about whether or not he's actually going to say something, Peter drunkenly walks over and confronts them. He then throws his drink in one of their faces and they all run out of the bar with the hicks in pursuit. They get away and are walking through the woods, laughing about what Peter had just done when Steve says that he wants to show them something. He takes them up to an unfamiliar area of the woods where there is a massive plantation, at least fifty plants. Steve and Bob start to steal a couple because they figured that no one would notice. At this time, Peter notices a sleeping bag on the ground just seconds before someone fires a shotgun at them. As they run away, Peter stops and looks back and sees that the person chasing them is Max. It's revealed that this is his secret garden. Max is angry and feels betrayed that he caught Peter stealing his plants and he yells at him to leave.

When Peter gets back to Jack's, Jack confronts him and asks him how many plants Max has. At first, he is hesitant to answer, so Jack takes him out on a nature walk and explains to him the dangers of having more than a few plants. He believes that by growing only twenty plants, he makes enough to get by and keeps from attracting the fed's attention. He warns Peter against letting greed run his life, because doing so destroys the entire reason they came out to the lost coast in the first place. After this, he goes to Max's house and asks him why he didn't tell him about the other plants. It's at this time that a federal police cruiser comes by and arrests Peter and Max. Peter is interrogated, but he reveals nothing and they are let go. Afterwards Peter starts to question why he is still there. The next day, Jack has a BBQ. He confronts Max about his secret crop. Without answering his question, Max instead mocks Jack, saying that the feds are probably there for all of the research that Jack has been doing all of these years. Jack angrily storms off and Rosie reveals to Peter that Jack isn't Max's father. Jack, Rosie and her then-husband, Charlie were all friends when they worked as professors at UCLA and they decided to move to Humboldt County together. However, eventually Charlie, who had been a long time alcoholic and drinking buddy of Jack's, died in a car accident while suffering from an episode of extreme alcohol withdrawal.

Peter decides that he can't be a part of Max's operation any more and he tries to leave. Max gets angry and tells him that this isn't a game and he can't back out, but Peter starts walking away anyway. Max then starts to cry and tells Peter that if he doesn't pull this off, Charity will end up just like him. While this affects Peter greatly, he still continues to walk off. Charity then finds Peter crying by a tree and asks him what's wrong. He asks her what she wants to be when she grows up and she says an astronaut. When she asks him what he wants to be, he says that he no longer knows, and she says that that's all right, which comforts Peter.

The next day, Peter's father shows up at the house, using Star-69 and MapQuest he managed to find where Peter was. After a brief visit with Jack and Rosie, where he is greatly put off to find that this is where his son has been all this time, he tells Peter that they're leaving, and Peter reluctantly goes with him despite his new-found bond with Jack and Rosie. As they're driving, his father tells Peter that he decided to pass him, but this news doesn't affect Peter much. He then sees Bob and Steve speeding down the road in the opposite direction, followed by Max and then by a federal helicopter. Peter realizes that they must have found Max's secret crop and are on their way to raid it. He gets out of the car and tells his father to head for the beach (advice that Max had told him earlier) and he runs off to stop Max from trying to save his crop.

Peter's father gets to the beach, where he finds Jack along with all of the other local pot farmers. He informs him that Peter took off. Jack hadn't seen Max anywhere and he connected the dots and headed off towards Max's crop. When Peter gets there, he finds Max trying to save as many of his plants before the DEA gets there and Peter begins to help. Then the feds show up and Peter and Max narrowly manage to hide themselves. Then Jack shows up and leads them both back to the beach, where Charity happily reunites with Max. Peter says that he's sorry to Max for his loss and Max tells him not to take it so seriously. That night, Max is at the bar drowning his sorrows when his drunken behavior gets him kicked out. He is then seen driving down the highway and laughing to himself. The scene then cuts to the next day when a sheriff shows up at Jack and Rosie's and informs them that Max is dead.

They then call Peter, who is staying at a hotel with his father, and tell him. He attends the funeral and afterwards finds Jack in his study, weeping to himself. Jack is ridden with guilt, he says that it was his idea to come up there and he blames himself for the death of Charlie and now Max. He breaks down saying that he has nothing left, but Peter then tells him that has so much left and that he had not yet reached the event horizon (a concept of physics that Jack describes to Peter as the point of no return). The ending is left up to the viewer for interpretation. It shows Peter and his father having breakfast at a diner before leaving back for Los Angeles. A bus then pulls up outside as one of the passengers needs to use the bathroom. Peter then gets up – his father apparently assuming he is going to the bathroom – and heads outside and gets on the bus, which then leaves when the other passenger gets back.

Critical response[edit]

As of October 11, 2008, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 58% of critics rated the film positively based on 12 reviews.[2] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 53 out of 100 based on 8 reviews, indicating a mixed or average response.[3]


  1. ^ Miller, Winter (2008-06-12). "Magnolia nabs 'Humboldt County'". Variety. Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  2. ^ "Humboldt County Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  3. ^ "Humboldt County (2008): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 

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