Politics & Living
Reviews & stories
H1NI Swine Flu spreads worldwide read
Place to Die
Sam North's prescient novel on the Flu Pandemic of 2009.
Print or download
plausible, and sickeningly addictive, this will terrify and
Roxy Williams - Amazon.co.uk
Movie by Sam North - Part Two - The road gets tougher
essay on why the road continues to fascinate cinema the world over
Starring Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake, Edmund MacDonald,
Tim Ryan, Esther Howard, Roger Clark, Pat Gleason. Original novel
and screenplay by Martin Goldsmith. Produced by Leon Fromkess. Directed
by Edgar G. Ulmer.
road movie really took hold in the traumatised times following the
Second World War. Now America was full of returning GI's discovering
the world has moved on, fortunes have been made and that they have
no place in the society they left behind. They, and many others,
disillusioned at not being part of 'society, arrived home and headed
West to California or Washington State, where the new aircraft industry
had begun to take shape. L.A. and Seattle were destinations of choice
for the dispossessed and ambitious alike. The highway, now under
construction, was becoming a symbol of everything that was new and
yet a signal that new dangers lurked in the post-war society.
Films such as 'Edgar G Ulmer's 'DETOUR' in 1945 were about people
not so much going west to follow a dream, but exploring sick fantasies
and preying on the innocent, much like highway men of old. "DETOUR'
about a night-club pianist driving from New York to L.A. who picks
up for more than he bargained for. It was a landmark film, flagging
a seething discontent where drugs, murder, sexual exploitation were
the new currency. It is film noir, but at the same time the road
movie is born out of discontent with ones' lot in life. Not just
in the movies either.
Jack Kerouac's 'On
the road' written in the early fifties is just the start of a long tradition
in fiction where people sought a solution to the answers of life, or
an escape from responsibilities. In the sixties fiction would again
follow Kerouac's lead with Ken Kaseys ' Kandy Collared Acid test
'. Let the acid do the journey, seemed to be the message, who needs
a road? In the 1997 David Lynch, whose own films seem to borrow much
from the road movie genre, has finally made the road movie from hell,
which is close to the atmosphere that Ulmer tried to capture. 'Lost
Highway' is the roadhouse/motel on the highway from hell where nightmares
begin and reality seeps away to pure horror. Although his film has not
proved popular, he has never shied away from showing the uncomfortable
He later made amends with 'The Straight Story' almost an anti-road movie,
but a road movie all the same, about a man called George Straight who
drives a lawnmower clear across state to see his sick brother. This
strange but compelling film has all the ingredients of the road journey
as a metaphor for resilience, stubbornness and perhaps futility, but
you can't but help be transfixed by the ultimate perversity of it, yet
admiration for the old man's doggedness.
In the late nineties, David Kronenberg has given us 'Crash', and although
at first glance one could possibly claim this to be a road movie since
it involves cars and roads, it is as far from the ethos of the road
movie genre as is possible. This is a nihilistic film, where no one
seeks redemption. Characters seek perverted sex and are stimulated by
the thought of death and maimed or severed limbs. Kronenbergs
Crash is less about the road than sexual obsessions. In a landscape
shaped by eight lane highways and concrete ghettos. It is a film without
hope and broadcasts an anti-utopian, fin de siècle message. (The
2004 Oscar winning 'Crash' written by Paul Haggis is an altogether better
film with a strong anti-racist message but not really a road movie in
any sense - despite involving cars, crashes and an excellent performance
from all the cast, in particular Matt Dillon).
The road movie concept has not been confined to the USA. However, it
ill suited the British landscape. For one thing, until the 1960's, there
was no highway in England at all. The very concept of open roads, 'Diners',
strangers encountering anything more lethal than an AA man was alien.
'Soft top, hard shoulder' is a brave attempt and funny, but driving
through Scotland in a Triumph Herald is as inappropriate to the genre
as scenes of Jim Carey on a bicycle on the highway in 'Dumb and Dumber',
it adds nothing to the genre and takes much away.
Nevertheless when its a comedy done well the road movie is a great
vehicle. Planes Trains and Automobiles is a classic of strangers on
the road desperate to get home against all odds, bonding despite everything.
It tells us something about the importance of Thanksgiving and generosity
and of course, there is no place like home!
Something Wild in 1986 reasserted the dangers on why straight businessmen
shouldn't give damsels in a distress a ride. Is Speed a 'road movie'
just because there is a road?
I don't think so.
But John Casalss first starrer 'The Sure Thing' in 1985 was. Any
guy worth his salt has gone clean across the USA for a girl and of course
you're going to meet someone else in such a long journey. Ten years
later in To Wong Food, 'Thanks for everything Julie Newmar' starring
the late Patrick Swazye the road is long, bus and its occupants are
bad tempered cross-dressers but nevertheless, it works. I guess we can't
forget 'Midnight Run' starring De Niro and the wonderful Charles Grodin.
A classic cat and mouse road movie. Add to this another John Cusak 2003
movie Identity directed by James Mangold and we hark back
to the original roadhouse movie and Petrified Forest and this time we
have ten strangers stranded at a desolate Nevada motel during a nasty
rainstorm. They become acquainted with each other when they realize
that they're being killed off one by one and all have the same unbelievable
connection. This movie wasnt so much appreciated at the time it
came out but was a pretty good twist on the roadhouse theme and John
Cusak lends a manic authority to the film, as madness grows more intense.
In Europe however, where roads were straighter, autobahn culture grew
up around the new roads. With many shifting populations made rootless
by war and the post-war prosperity, the road movie found favour.
post-war European audiences, they would look at a Robert Mitchum
movie such as 'Build My Gallows High', (Dir Geoffrey Homes) perhaps
one of the best film noir movies of that time and pick up all kinds
of inferences. Audiences see the open road, the Californian desert,
the roadhouses and they would see adventure and romance. Perhaps
they wouldn't recognise the despair, the feckless, rootlessness
and restlessness underlying it all. America was the victor; in any
case, people saw what they wanted to see.
For people such
as Francois Truffaut seeing these films post-war was a revelation. It
was no longer a 'Wonderful life' - something dark and sinister had overtaken
America and is showing up in these films. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
itself is dark and sinister. This is what happens if you don't care
about people and let profit ride roughshod everything. Although it is
a favourite now, it wasn't so in 1946, people didn't like what it said
'Il Strada' by Antonioni was a literal reinterpretation of the American
experience. The German's later responded with Wim Wenders aimless characters
riding the German landscape. Other filmmakers too used the autobahn,
it became the escape route for would be rebels or even innocents who
befriended them in 'The Lost honour of Katerina Blum' and later German
cinema 'Run Lola Run'. The French in particular took up the highway
and despair as a metaphor for all that troubled France. Goddard with
'Weekend' the famous endless traffic jam and the horrendous outcome
of terrorists eating random motorists. Latterly 'Betty Blue'
set a kind of European blueprint for disaffected youth searching for
a new life. Only partly a road movie, yet 'Blue' reflects all the values
of its American ancestry but perhaps too quickly reaches a destination
to play out the impending tragedy.
Europeans experimented with the surreal and satiric. Bertolucci's
film 'about Italys Fascist past, The Conformist' uses
the road as a theme to link the past and the future, pre-war Italy
and the changed circumstances during the war. 'The Conformist '
is yet not quite a 'road' movie either, but an interpretation of
the American road movie, using the journey to an assination to reveal
the past. Bertolucci's imagery is nothing short of spectacular and
using architecture he informs us in shot after shot the pretensions
of Fascist Italy and his one key shot of the autumn leaves at his
Mother's villa haunt one for years, as does the expression on Dominique
Sanda's face when she realises his indifference to her peril.
the same star, Jean-Louis Trintingnant was involved in another road
movie 'Un Home and et Femme', not so much about the road, but using
the same reflective elements of past and future, love, danger and car
racing. More recently ' Betrand Blier's 'Mercie la Vie' brought the
road movie an extraordinary slant, with two girls on the road hitching,
causing mayhem whilst running parallel is a paranoid story about AIDS
and a time warp with the Nazi occupation of France. Daring and perplexing,
'Mercie La Vie' is also compulsive viewing. The opening short of a girl
in a wedding dress being flung out of a car grips from the start.
The Americans meanwhile refined the nightmare that the highway had come
to represent. One of the first to reflect the new style was 'Midnight
Cowboy', realism and despair were the elements and New York as the 'fantasy'
place where they would find salvation. Terence Malick's evocative film
'Badlands' used the poetic and lavish scenery of the mid-west as a backdrop
to the relentless horror of a passionless killer who model's himself
on James Dean and his under-aged girlfriend on the run. The film is
redeemed by embracing the beauty of the landscape, truly incorporating
it into the text of the filmic experience. This would again be true
of his next film, ' Days of Heaven' which although about people who
rode the rails in the depression and worked as seasonal farm labour,
it again evokes the essence of the road movie and the keen desperation
to belong, to have something, even if it isn't yours.
By now though the road movie was turning sour and this theme would be
again explored by such films as Tony Scott's 'True Romance' 1993 (literally
a reworking of Badlands by the writer Tarantino, who is quite inventive
with other peoples work.) This is funny and quirky with a fine keynote
scene with Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walkman. This film appreciates
with age and there is a great affection for all the characters involved.
With the film 'Kalifornia' and Oliver Stone's 'Natural Born Killers'
(where the again the writer is Tarantino) the ultimate sickness here
is that the highway is peopled with serial killers who will strike at
anyone, care nothing for life at all. It eliminates all hope for salvation
and mocks those who are foolish enough to seek the 'good life' or lead
honourable lives. This is the road movie as dead end, for if there is
no hope, why risk your life on the road at all? Perhaps it is a good
thing that audiences have not responded to these later films, recognising
them for the aberration they are.
In a quite different species of road movie, Spielberg's 'Close Encounters
of the Third Kind, exposes the paranoia that is all too persistent
under the surface of American society. The road is a pathway now to
a different kind of salvation. The aliens have become the cavalry who
will at any moment come over the hill to save us from ourselves. Even
Germany's Wim Wenders came to America to make his peon to despair 'Paris
Texas'. The road movie became less a journey west to seek utopia, than
movies about people trapped on the highway with no sense of direction,
or purpose, who perhaps didn't even want to arrive. Paris Texas also
models itself on Ford's 'The Searchers' in that a man searches for his
wife, but not amongst the hostile Native Americans, but the arid and
neon jungle of the sex-industry. It is more than most a film about America's
Some attempt has been made to revivify the genre. Such films as 'Red
Rock West' where the small town on the highway represents the roadhouse
and adventurers exploit each other in the manner of the Ulmer films
of the fifties. Others, such as George Lucas, look to boyhood memories
(American Graffiti) but in reality his film is a hot-rod movie and is
more about small-town America and a certain lack of courage to actually
get out of town and seek ones fortune. Perhaps that is why road movies
are so resilient, for many, the road is too great an obstacle, the dangers
too intimidating, we let the character's in these films travel for us
and if they encounter trouble and death, then we have the satisfaction
of knowing 'we told you so' and we lock our doors at night, keeping
'adventure' at a distance, on the outside.
(Certainly, if you look at a whole raft of movies showing now, the road
movie is not a 'popular' choice. Some might be about journeys, but that
alone is not sufficient. This doesn't mean the road movie is dead, merely
We are left with others to give us the road. 'The Wild One' may have
been about bikers, but again, they didn't really get far out of town
and besides, what was their goal? Nothing grander than self-gratification
and gang rivalry. This in turn led to 'Easy Rider' which started a string
of drugs, good times and stoned Kerouac styled philosophy movies. Peter
Fonda in discussing this film has said that he pushed these characters
as far as they could go and his character's suicide at the end was a
metaphor for the end of the road movie, the end of freedom, rather than
a celebration of it. One star of 'Easy Rider' (Jack Nicholson) moved
onto another road movie, 'Five Easy Pieces' which unusually trekked
North. As did another more unusual European movie 'Strozek'. Directed
by Werner-Herzog, it told the tale of a German immigrant to the Northwest
who finds American life a complete dead-end, not at all what he expected.
Road movies were no longer confined to going west, but could travel
in almost every direction. Even Australia where the 'Mad Max' series
posted an apocalyptic postscript to the road movie. The future has a
road, but it goes nowhere.
In 1969, another European, Antonioni made 'Zabriskie Point'. Something
of a seminal work and breathtaking to watch even now, it is nevertheless
very much of its time. It captures the empty shallowness of the 70's
so well you can taste it.
The sixties and seventies sought to redefine the road movie and were
successful in many ways. 'Vanishing Point' exploited speed and nihilism.
Goddard's 'A bout de Souffle' (Breathless) the illusion of freedom and
easy living without responsibility. 'Paper Moon' nostalgia for a lost
world, as is 'Bonnie and Clyde', one of the most successful road movies,
although arguably is just a movie where the road is less about destination,
than destiny with eventual death. The eighties gave us 'Baghdad Cafe'
and David Lynch's 'Wild at Heart'. Both popular and strange.
There are even Japanese road movies. 'Sonatine' in the 1990's mirrors
'Bonnie and Clyde'. Not in that is about random crimes, but it asks
when bad guys hit the road, what is the element that binds them together.
The destination, or their shared ideals? The road reveals an absence
of moral virtues, it exposes people to their bare essentials, and philosophy
is often the outcome when men leave the comfort of what they know for
the unexplored. It answers another question as well. What do Gangsters
do on vacation? They shoot at each other with fireworks. Sonatine picks
up on another theme of the 'Road Movie', that quite often these people
are bored. With life, with themselves. The road, to keep moving to avoid
confrontation with the self is a key to their motivation. Despair is
the end result.
Other road movies have explored social issues, 'Rain Man' the first
autistic road movie. 'From Dusk till Dawn', horror, but most simply,
'El Mariachi' by Robert Rodriguez encapsulates all the elements of the
road movie. The young hopeful man walks into town from nowhere and is
immediately beset by a multitude of problems. 'My Private Idaho' and
'Whatever Happened to Gilbert Grape' uses the road merely as a prop;
these are not really road movies as such, lacking the road as a central
character. The road in 'Gilbert Grape' is the way in and the way out
of town, most of the characters in the film would like to leave, but
fear of change holds them in place. There is a world of difference to
America of the 1930's where the road was seen as a conduit to escape
from all the ills of society, to the present where the road brings nothing
but trouble, serial killers, disease and despair. If anything, many
towns would now welcome a by-pass, so no one will notice that they have
a good life that they would be reluctant to share.
Jim Jarmusch approached the ultimate road movie with 'Night on Earth'
possibly the longest taxi-ride in any movie. But again, it doesn't really
satisfy as a road movie as it is more about the taxi than the social
or environment surrounding it.
But who has anything fresh to say about the road movie? Is there a writer/director
in America who can explore the context of the road movie and bring a
new look to it? 'Even Cowgirls get the blues' is a road movie with a
difference. Written in the 1970's it was then a brave and shocking tale
of a girl with a big thumb and sexual appetite, but as a road movie
at the box office, it failed. Possibly it is necessary to be able to
identify with the main protagonists. That was the secret of 'Thelma
and Louise'. The audience for the film perhaps should have been predominantly
female, yet it was film much favoured by men and women, mostly because,
one suspects that the women seemed so real, and the story so believable.
It's a film that has found a following, not so much because of feminism,
but simply because the road movie, done well appeals to the adventure
and longing in us all.
also the wonderful 'O Brother Where art Thou' by the Coen Brothers
a classic throwback to 1930's road trips and prison escape movies.
Everything about this movie worked and even the soundtrack reached
the top of the CD charts. George Clooney harks back to Clark Gable
and the road is an integral part of these convicts search for the
pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The road is more than a means to find the pot of gold, it is the
pathway of an oddessey. It faithfully gives us an insight into the
corrupt politics fo the time and the significance of radio in that
A student once
asked me if 'Road to Perdition' is a 'road movie'. Well it has Road
in the title and Tom Hanks gets to drive a lot. But essentially it is
a gangster movie and that comes with a whole different set of luggage.
Many gangster moves use 'the road'. After all they began shifting liquor
by road from Canada during Prohibition, so the road is key. But the
ethos is different. No one in a gangster movie is searching for the
meaning of life and that essentially is what a road movie is about.
*Although I might correct myself and say that Tom Hanks's character
discovers the importance of life in this film.
The director Hal Hartley comes close to a genuine road movie with his
1991 film 'Simple Men'. It is certainly one of the most interesting
attempts of the last twenty years. The characters seek not salvation,
but in the tradition of Ford's 'The Searchers' these are people who
are in search of someone and must hit the road to find a solution. Two
brothers, one an unsuccessful crook, who has just been betrayed by his
girlfriend and lost out on a successful computer heist, hears from his
younger brother that their father, a political radical and terrorist
has been captured by the police 20 years after he allegedly bombed the
Pentagon. When the younger brother arrives at the police station he
is surprised to find that his father has already escaped. The two brothers
unite and set off to find their father. Broke, they have just $15 bucks
between them to get them to Long Island. It doesn't get them far. From
the first stop on the island, they will have to walk the rest. They
know their father is somewhere on Long Island and at the first town
they come to; serendipity comes to their aide. A broken down motorcycle,
a schoolgirl willing to help and a wrestling Nun all make this interlude
entirely memorable. When they finally get on the road, naturally there
will be something or someone to impede their progress.
Lying in wait are two women, one who has just had an epileptic fit and
just so happens to be their father's radical girlfriend and the other,
who, naturally owns a roadhouse. The roadhouse is the honey trap of
all road movies. It is where everything gets turned around. At the roadhouse,
the men wait, always on tenterhooks as the woman who owns it is waiting
for her ex-lover to return at any minute since he's been released from
jail (for a violent crime) and there is the jealous but spurned lover
also hanging in the wind ... The brothers find themselves caught in
the vortex of these women's lives, but can't leave, as they know one
day soon, their father will reclaim his young lover.
'Simple Men' is a true but quirky road movie, filled with waiting and
longing, philosophic musing and the threat of violence, like a heavy
purple sky on a balmy summer afternoon. These are people no longer in
control of their lives, caught in the headlights of impending doom.
All the while, the law, in the background, is slowly making their way
to the conclusion that the brothers are wanted men....
Hal Hartley's 'Simple Men' is a classic example of the 'Road movie'
yet somehow reinvents it, brings to it a look and feel quite utterly
contemporary without seeming to be either a copy of others, or overly
influenced by film noir style. Unlike 'Kalifornia' - the serial killers
on the road film that tries to recreate the atmosphere of the old road
movies whilst adding a wholly grotesque atmosphere to the proceedings,
'Simple Men' succeeds in reminding us that normal people ride the roads
and they are not just ciphers waiting for a bullet to blow their heads
off, but thinking people, unable to accept the mundane kind of life
usually on offer. They live for what all characters live for in a road
movie, the horizon, the next sunset, the new dawn, but remember, the
next roadhouse will be waiting, to ensnare you; stop there, if you dare...
'Y tu mama tambien' Alfonso Cuaron's 2001 Mexican Road Movie is much
loved- the Mexican Road movie became a big success and the Director
went on to direct Harry Potter and the amazing Children of Men. (Which
certainly has elements of the road movie in it and is a fine end of
the world movie). Y Tu Madre Tambien was a gem because it gave us a
new culture to explore, had characters that you could like and it was
an adventure about sex, the road, love, and finally death. A road movie
about growing up. What more could you want.
Two young boys, almost like brothers (Tenoch played by Diego Luna and
Julio played by Gael Garcia Bernal (Motorcycle Diaries) and a confident
beautiful 'older' woman Luisa Cortes (Maribel Verdu) take a trip of
sexual discovery and enlightenment. Tenoch is from a rich family, Julio
from a lower middle class one. Their surnames Iturbide and Zapata are
a nice reminder of the political turmoil that is Mexican history and
their journey is not just one of sexual development with the lonely
It is social commentary on the lives of the young men, their feelings
and political awakenings, but also we see the real Mexico, its complexities
and sharp contrasts. This is what a road movie should be. It is about
escape, albeit temporary, from the constraints of their own lives and
discovering freedom as they head towards a mythical beach, Boca del
Cielo (Heaven's Mouth). We the viewer learns something about them and
modern Mexico and that is no bad thing.
In 2004 we also got another South American road movie - The Motorcycle
Diaries based on Ché Guevara's book and adapted by Alberto Granado
directed by Walter Salles. It stars Gael Garcia Bernal as Ché
(Ernesto Guevara de la Serna) at the very beginning of his political
awakenings and Rodrigo De La Serna as Alberto Granado.
Two young men on a motorcycle who want to see South America before they
commit to careers.
It's exactly what the road is for. To escape obligations and duty. To
explore freedom before debt and hunger force you to conform. That it
is Ché Guevara and Alberto Granado, famed for their revolutionary
exploits in South America and Cuba makes it all the more interesting.
What are the roots of a revolutionary?
You see that exactly. Whether discovering how hard it is to work in
the Chuquicamata Copper mine and how badly the natives are treated,
or going among the lepers at the colony and remembering to treat them
with dignity and respect, Ché and Alberto are teaching us a lesson.
We understand how South America, still to this day embraces all the
harshness of capitalism and few of the social responsibilities. It is
easier now to understand why Central and South America are always in
such turmoil and the performances are all times accessible and human,
often quite funny. This is not a film about a 'moment' that made Ché
a revolutionary. It is about a man, destined to be a Doctor, already
a liberal, who finds that this journey awakens more than a conscience
about the life about him. It's an internal psychological change and
his seriousness is nicely contrasted by his companion Alberto who just
wants to get laid all the time. Motorcycle Diaries has found its audience
(and possible awards) because it never preaches, it is educational but
embracing and audiences develop a warm fuzzy feeling about this film.
Which leads us the Oscar winning road movie...
'Sideways' written and directed by Alexander Payne (About Schmidt) based
on the novel by Rex Pickett. Starring Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church,
Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh, Marylouise Burke.
Sideways is a road movie and a damn good one. It has a simple plot,
two middle-aged guys who havent reached anywhere near their potential
in life take a road trip in Napa Valley, one week before one of them,
Jack, played with gusto by Thomas Haden Church (Spiderman 3), is due
to get married to the lovely Victoria. Its an escape from reality
into unreality, but oddly enough, given their ages, it is also a coming
of age picture. The road, as often stated, educates us, makes us face
up to who we are and what we are escaping. Miles played brilliantly
by Paul Giamatti may be a middle-English teacher at a school in San
Diego with several rejected novels under his belt, but away from the
hum and drum of his life, he is an expert oenophile (wine lover). In
Napa they dont care what you do or what you are, if you know your
wine, you are welcome. In Napa, Miles is Superman, in San Diego Clarke
Kent. Or something like. He is well liked, respected and clearly has
an established relationship with a small group of waiters, barman and
vineyards. This is where he goes to be who hed like to be.
Jack, a failed soap opera actor, now doing voice-overs, has struck lucky,
he is due to marry Victoria, the daughter of a rich Armenian construction
family. But, he is full of doubts, about himself, his ability to commit,
settle down, and of course, validate himself in Victorias eyes.
She is rich, he is poor, and wont she resent that?
The road trip is designed to leave both of themselves behind and rekindle
college days, carefree moments when the future seems possible.
Of course there is baggage. Miles is getting therapy for depression
and drugs to deal with it, he is anxious about his latest novel; awaiting
a decision from a publisher about it. Jack is just like a dog on heat,
anything that moves he wants to hump, as if marriage and monogamy is
a jail sentence rather than an escape in luxury.
Two men, utterly incompatible, - ex-college roomies, on the road to
rediscover themselves. Of course Miles has one plan (to see the vineyards
and educate jack to wine) Jack has a plan to get laid as often as possible
and even, generously, set up Miles for a good time on the way. (He does
this by boosting Miles and telling everyone he is about to have his
book published, much to Miles' embarrassment.)
So its a road adventure, but in a concentric circle, as they based
at the Windmill Motel whilst they go to sample wines in the vineyards.
At the motel Jack notices that Mia, the lovely waitress (Virginia Madsen)
really likes and respects Miles, but Miles is too down on himself to
acknowledge it. He schemes to get them together (which might take some
browbeating). Later Jack discovers Stephanie (Sandra Oh) at a vineyard
and realises she is up for it. So will Miles get Mia, will Jack get
Stephanie and will Jack mention that he is about to get married on Saturday?
Alexander Payne concentrates on the humanity of the characters, plot
is minimal, and to some extent this film borrows something from a French
Road movie 'Le Bonheur est dans le pré' by Etienne Chatiliez
(OK there is no striking workforce in Sideways, but once the boss leaves
and hits the road, there are similarities). Virginia Madsen is wonderful
and when she finally gets Miles to open up and talk about wine (whilst
Jack is humping Stephanie in the bedroom) you can see that she really
likes him despite the fact that what Miles is actually talking
about his himself as a vine that can only grow in a particular place
and needs lots of attention to get to its full potential. She even offers
to read his unpublished novel (every writers dream as of course, no
one ever really offers to read your book unless they are in love with
Jack is beginning to think he has made a terrible mistake in getting
married and really likes Stephanie, but the truth is he likes any woman
and its Miles who has to extract him from trouble when he dips
his wick in the wrong place. Worse, once Stephanie discovers Jack is
a lying twister just out to get laid
she is devastated and Jack
gets his come-uppance in the car park.
The ending is beautifully played, resulting in Miles getting his car
wrecked and although there probably is a rule that road movies cant
end happily, this one does and leaves us with hope. Hope is a good feeling.
Once can see why it has resonated so well with cinemagoers and the Oscars.
Which brings us to the present day and the release of Sam Mendess
film Away We Go 2009 written by Dave Eggers and Vendela
Vida starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph. Sam Mendes already gave
us Road to Perdition and which I argue is not in the spirit
of a road movie and oddly enough, I not sure this film or
even his previous film Revolutionary Road is either. A rootless
young couple released from an obligation to live near their parents
set off to discover just where they want to live. Only they do most
of the journeys between Phoenix, Montreal and Miami and between by air
or train, but yes it is a voyage of self discovery. Verona is a heavily
pregnant wife and Burt an innocent abroad, as it were, who sells insurance
futures but probably not very well. Verona is a technical artist, but
we do little to explore their talents and this is really
just an excuse to say how crass and empty everyone is in America pursuing
hopeless dreams. It is filled with clichés such as Maggie Gyllenhall
playing an earth mother, Allison Janney trying to repeat her wacky
character from Juno (although her husband (Jim Gaffigan) gives a wonderful
morose summation of Phoenixs future). Basically this rather unlikeable
couple discover that none of their friends or relatives are happy and
that theres no place like home. It seemed filled with
promise but in the end it is maudlin and most likely a box office failure.
© Sam North 2000-2009
North is the author of the historical novel Diamonds
The Rush of 72 and
Place to Die
The Next Great Flu Pandemic
Back to Part
One of the Road Movie
- The Rush of '72 By Sam
now from Amazon.com
terrific piece of storytelling'
Historical Novel Society Review
Road Movie before there were roads..'
direct from the publisher
Reviews and Film Space
Back to Index
© Hackwriters.com all rights reserved. 1999-2009 -
without express permisison of the author and Hackwriters.com