Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Scenic Route

by Drew Martin
A week ago I watched Scenic Route (2013), which I really liked but noticed that it got trashed by almost every critic. Stephen Holden of the New York Times wrote that it was miscast and that Kyle Killen’s screenplay is “...an awkward, long-winded mash-up of therapy session, horror movie and survival tale with pretensions of psychological depth.” What this actually translates as is “real dialogue.” I appreciate that the Goetz brothers believed that an extended conversation is enough to pull off a movie.

I, for one liked the dialogue between the two buddies who have grown apart since one of them married a rebound girlfriend and gave up his music-career aspirations for a desk job and to raise a kid in suburbia.

There are a couple media comments I think the film nailed. I like when a film says “I could be a stage play because I do not need to do this, but I am a film because I can do this...” While watching it, I pictured it as a play with a bare stage with different intensities of light to mark the passage of time, and the presence and absence of heat. In the play, the characters would appear in a dying old pickup truck that would conk out center stage, and the play would continue with little difference from the movie.

I like how the movie interprets the classic desert mirage not as simply a visual trick, but as a full immersion of the characters into an oasis of life; the lives that potentially wait for them beyond the desert. I also like how the never-finished story by the unsuccessful writer friend who feels “deserted” by the married guy, is this story. The desert is then the metaphor for the writer. It is the unwritten landscape of the blank page, where staring at the blank computer screen is like staring at the sun.

The only complaint I have about the film, and I think the Goetz brothers would probably welcome this criticism, is a cut they make in the middle of the film to illustrate a tale of adultery when the married friend recounts his affair to his buddy. We leave them shivering in the cab of the truck for a fleshy scene in a hotel room. Perhaps the Goetz’s wanted to spice up the film a little but I think they should have saved this displacement for the end in the delusional oasis moment.