Grand Theft Parsons

Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


Gram Parsons is a country music cult hero. Though he never had great commercial success, his music influenced many of today's performers from the Rolling Stones to Fleetwood Mac. His life and work were inspirational, but his death and the events that happened immediately afterward are legendary.

It's 1973, and road manager Phil Kaufman (Johnny Knoxville) gets a call; his friend and charge, Parsons, has overdosed. Thinking back to the pact the pair made just two months before, Kaufman speeds off on his Harley to get the body and take it to Joshua Tree. To help him on his quest, he enlists the aid of Larry Oster-Berg (Michael Shannon), a reluctant hippie who has no idea what he's getting into. With Gram's father Stanley (Robert Forster) and ex-girlfriend Barbara (Christina Applegate) hot on their tails, they head off to make good on the promise.

With this incredible true story as the backbone of the film, director David Caffrey utilizes the cast's talent to be the flesh and blood of it. Knoxville delivers a breakout performance, perfectly blending humor and sentiment, and Shannon is terrific as the comic relief. Capped off with a remarkable soundtrack, Grand Theft Parsons is a hilarious and touching movie that tests the limits of friendship and asks, "How far would you go to keep your word?"

— Trevor Groth

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