Road to Nowhere
is a beautiful, moody,
passionate, dark, sometimes frustrating neo-noir love letter to
looks stunning, first things first. It is truly beautifully filmed. It is
quiet and brooding and not afraid of silence. In fact, writer Steve Gaydos
and director Monte Hellman barely have a word of dialogue in the first 14
minutes of the film. Instead they are content to linger on such potentially
non-cinematic images as a woman sitting in bed drying her nails with a blow
drier for well over two minutes and leaving the camera staring at the outside
of a house that we know something dramatic is going on inside – but we are
stuck on the outside with no way of knowing exactly what the hell is
is quiet and slow moving and yet undeniably gorgeous. But also sometimes a
little bit dull.
we are led into the meat of the story. A film crew is going down to make a
film of a true-life story of greed and death which had taken place not long
earlier – a tale of crooked politicians and a gorgeous woman whose
embezzlement plot led to a mysterious death or disappearance.
director of the film, Mitchell Haven (played by Tygh Runyan) is passionate –
and more than a bit pretentious – about the story he is telling. In fact,
honestly, he is a bit pretentious about everything, but mostly about film
Haven casts an unknown (Shannon Sossyman) in his female lead, determined
that only she can play the role. Quickly, he finds himself falling for his
winsome ingénue. Then suddenly people start remarking how much she looks
like the character. And then some people suggest that perhaps she is indeed
the woman she is playing.
Unfortunately, this all becomes kind of confusing and kind of precious. As
you are watching, you never know for sure whether you are watching the
characters or actors portraying the characters or the characters portraying
actors portraying the characters. It gets a puzzle-box logic which makes it
rather hard to keep track of things.
Road to Nowhere
is very smart about the
filmmaking process, but at the same time I think it somewhat overestimates
said process’ inherent fascination. Too much time is spent watching
screenwriters bitch about cuts, watching DPs decide on the perfect camera
lens, watching actors deciding what their character’s motivation might be,
watching our filmmakers watch other classic films in bed and tell each other
how brilliant these old films were.
course, the film loses a good deal of its Hollywood insider juice when they
suggest that Leonardo DiCaprio was interested in the playing lead role and
the director blew him off to hire… Cliff DeYoung? A character actor who has
worked steadily over the decades, but to this day is probably best known for
a short-lived 70s TV drama called Sunshine? Granted, he is playing a
character, it is not supposed to be DeYoung himself. However, even on the
most basic level, if we were to give the film the benefit of the doubt that
the guy was indeed as big as Leonardo, DeYoung is just under 30 years older
than DiCaprio and certainly in lesser physical shape. I find it hard to
believe that they are going up for the same roles.
film moves in fits and starts towards the inevitable showdown between real
life and reel life. It takes some interesting, dark twists and turns
heading towards its humorless denouement.
Director Hellman has an evocative and moody sense of place and often is
reminiscent of legendary Hollywood art-house director Terrence Malick,
especially in the fact that his movies look absolutely sumptuous but the
plots don’t always move particularly well or make much sense. Like Malick,
Hellman is very sparing in his projects (his last directing job was 22
years ago and his best-known film Two-Lane Blacktop is now 40 years
old, making him even more of a professional hermit than the famously
slow-moving Malick). Also like Malick, Hellman is better at showing than he
is at telling.
Some of the story
makes sense, some of it seems to be just for effect. You never really know
exactly what happened here, but that is okay. Not every film has to spoon
feed you its plot and motivation. Sometimes movies should be more about the
questions that you ask afterwards. Road to Nowhere, if nothing else,
leaves you with some questions.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: June 6, 2011.