I’m sure you all have your opinions or preconceptions about this week’s major home entertainment releases, Mad Max: Fury Road and the Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul.
In DVD Letterbox’s mind, Mad Max: Fury Road is the one movie of the year that has left a lasting impression. It remains a blast; just don’t do it the disservice of watching it on an inferior screen.
So DVD Letterbox will give a struggling actor a go — and why not, given the most recent film directed by an actor, Joel Edgerton’s The Gift, is so fine?
Rudderless is William H. Macy’s first effort as a feature director (he directed a telemovie back in 1988) and he brings together a nice cast including his wife, Felicity Huffman, Anton Yelchin, Laurence Fishburne, Selena Gomez still trying to quash her Disney past, and the unfeasibly handsome Billy Crudup.
The star of Almost Famous plays Sam, a sleek advertising executive whose ascension is stopped in its tracks by the death of his son, a talented songwriter, in a campus shooting.
Macy and Huffman have always struck me as a rather intelligent, witty couple, so I don’t think my high hopes for his directorial debut, and perhaps even an intelligent look at this major American problem, were unreasonable.
But the handling of the campus shooting is incredibly disappointing
It becomes a mere plot point, barely mentioned, as Sam leaves town and we revisit him two years later, after he’s slipped into an alcoholic fuzz, from which he emerges only when he performs his son’s songs with three local youngsters.
Like the current release Ricki and the Flash, Rudderless (M, Shock, 105min, $29.99) stitches together a tale that, mostly, affirms the power of music to bind and/or redeem. But Ricki and the Flash is what it is, essentially a domestic drama, and doesn’t flit by such a topical plot point so brazenly.
When the twist to the shooting comes, the grieving enters another phase — yet it only reminds you what a blunder it is for the film not to pay greater attention to the incident.
Now, DVD Letterbox doesn’t want to whine about the film that should have been made — writers and directors make their choices, and good luck to them. But Macy, who wrote the screenplay with Casey Twenter and Jeff Robison and plays the owner of the tavern hosting the band, pulls that crucial punch, devaluing anything good in the film.
Macy, like his country, doesn’t have the stomach for it; it’s much easier to mourn.
Amid the melodrama, Crudup is particularly good, although Yelchin lays it on too thickly.
The songs, written by Simon Steadman and Charlton Pettus of the band SolidState and a big part of the film, are credible enough in an early Smashing Pumpkins fashion.
But by the final song, Macy’s merely serviceable film will have infuriated you, no matter how sweet the occasional melody.