Film Review: The Long Dumb Road

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The Long Dumb Road resembles an update of Albert Brooks’ 1985 masterpiece, Lost in America. Only instead of yuppies attempting to emulate Easy Rider, we follow a 19-year-old boy who wants to experience “the real America” before matriculating to college and manhood. Director Hannah Fidell, heretofore known for dramatic fare like A Teacher and 6 Years, joins forces with Carson Mell (Another Evil) to breathe new life into the odd couple road trip comedy.

Fresh off his sheltered suburban Austin upbringing, Nathan (Tony Revolori, The Grand Budapest Hotel) documents his trip on a 35 mm Pentax camera, operating as if his photos of dive bar patrons, abandoned buildings, and strip malls are groundbreaking works. But when his mini-van won’t start, his trip changes course both figuratively and literally. His car trouble serendipitously leads to Richard (Jason Matzoukas, The League, The House), a mechanic who has just tendered his middle-fingered resignation from his employers. Richard is upbeat and friendly, albeit rough around the edges. Nathan admits that he’d hoped to meet interesting people on his trip and as Richard puts it, “I’m interesting as fuck!” So, Nathan agrees to give Richard a ride in exchange for his services…

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Lost in America

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It’s been over 30 years since Albert Brooks unleashed his on-point satire about the mental unraveling of dissatisfied yuppies in Regan-era America. And while Easy Rider (1969) the film that inspires them, is even further in the rearview today than it was in 1985, the sentiments of ignorance, delusion, and privilege remain tragically relevant in what will one day be known as (barf) Trump-era America. Fortunately, because it’s an Albert Brooks film, these hard truths are wrapped up in a hilarious package, now available as part of the Criterion collection.

After being passed over for a promotion at his high-paying advertising job, David (Brooks) urges his wife, Linda (Julie Hagerty) to quit her job and sell everything they own to “drop out of society” and tour the county in a decked-out Winnebago. The key to making this plan work is his oft-referenced “nest egg” – the liquidated lump sum of their assets that is meant to keep them afloat for the remainder of their years on this planet. It shouldn’t be a problem because the idea is to simplify. After a grand send-off from their friends, they set out from Los Angeles, planning to renew their wedding vows in Vegas as their first stop. David and Linda will never be the characters from Easy Rider. But it takes them losing everything to truly understand that…

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SIFF Review: Burn Burn Burn

No one does black comedy quite like the Brits, though, in the case of Burn Burn Burn, it’s especially heavy on the black. The directorial debut from Chanya Button (who learned the ropes as an A.D. on the Harry Potter films), and written by Charlie Covell (her first feature script), is a road trip film about friendship, death, and the dangers of internalizing grief. Fortunately, it’s also peppered with dry British humor (or should I say humour?) to help the medicine go down.

Surprises from friends can be fun, but not in the case of sardonic party boy Dan (Jack Farthing), who springs his own funeral on his two best friends, Seph (Laura Charmichael, Downton Abbey) and Alex (Chloe Pirrie). As he explains in his video will, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, but he wanted to spare them (and himself), the agony of watching him fade away. His last wish is for Seph and Alex to take him on a road trip, scattering his ashes in four meaningful places across the U.K. He has recorded an additional video for each stop that they are to play just before leaving a bit of him behind. His elevator pitch for this task is “Thelma and Louise meets Casper the Friendly Ghost.” At first, the girls are reluctant. But circumstances (Alex walking in on her girlfriend with another woman and Seph getting sacked from her job), suddenly make the idea of getting out of town seem a lot more appealing…

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