Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Road to Nowhere - DVD Review


Starring Shannyn Sossamon, Dominique Swain, Tygh Runyan, Cliff de Young, Waylon Payne, Michael Bigham and John Diehl.  Directed by Monte Hellman.

This is a very sleepy movie-within-a-movie experiment, to the point where it often feels like a behind-the-scenes extra on the DVD about making the actual movie.

A young director is setting out to make a movie about a real-life double-suicide that also involved robbery. He casts an unknown actress (Shannyn Sossamon) in the lead, because she looks so much like the subject, Velma Durand. The movie is a series of scenes, without being clear if it's the movie, or the movie-within-the-movie, or even a movie within a movie within a movie.

For its byzantine aspirations, we get some long shots, whether it's gazing over a lake, or the actress doing her nails. So are the director (Hellman) and writer (Steven Gaydos) in sync? Well, sure. I actually found the cast to be its weakest element. I get its low budget, but I've never found Sossamon compelling, and some of the others just feel like college buddies giving this acting thing a try. But when vets like Cliff de Young or John Diehl show up, well, at least they know what they're doing.

It's not as cubist as The Limey or as seductive as Mulholland Dr., but it's a compliment to this movie that those others come to mind when I'm watching it. Would've loved to have seen the same story told with better actors and a bigger budget. As is, it's my first exposure to Hellman's work, and I'd like to see what he and Gaydos can do next.

(UPDATE: I asked Gaydos over Twitter about one of the ending plot elements that bothered me and he answered. I'm tempted to up it to three stars over just that fact.)

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