Reviewed at Seattle Film Festival, June 6, 1999. Running time: 63 MIN.
Intriguing, if not quite satisfying, docu delves into underground world of bingo, which rakes in billions per year and has more adherents than sports, arts and showbiz combined. Many-hatted Seattle helmer John Jeffcoat sought out gaming spots in North America and the U.K. to make this composite portrait of smoke-shrouded bingoholics, but subject ultimately boils down to the oft-repeated philosophy, “Without this, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.” This narrative simplicity, plus vid origins, make “Bingo: The Documentary” likely to settle into long stay at corner table in cable halls.
Patented by Yahtzee-meister Edwin S. Lowe (after refining a farm-country version called Beano), the infectious game found its way into churches and community centers, with contempo spinoffs including gay bingo, singles-night bingo and Caribbean-cruise bingo. Common thread is addictive personalities without much self-reflection, and cross-section is as unlovely and non-youthful as you’d expect. Pic is aided by snappy music and a tongue-in-cheek tone. But despite the presence of psych types who put both positive and troubling spins on the passive pastime, it doesn’t quite get to what makes the faithful tick — perhaps because there’s nothing to get.