Lou Taylor Pucci, Zooey Deschanel, Corn Mo and a road trip across the desert West as a manboy searches for his older half-brother. You could call this Garden State hits the road, at a cursory glance, but it’s better than that. Director Martin Hynes puts together a personal and touching coming of age story about a young guy named Mercer dealing with a family tragedy by stealing a car and setting out to find the only family he has left.
Along the way he makes deeper connections, as the owner of the car (Zooey) calls him on her cell phone. She knows him somehow, and their conversations, and her Western audiobook, serve as narration as Mercer tracks down his brother Arlen through the wreckage left in his wake. It’s like Arlen grew up in ’90s indie films, and we stop at grunge art communes, pornographers, a band that includes accordionaire John “Corn Mo” Cunningham. Mercer gets taken in by a siren named Julie who wants to make him a man in the cliche fashion, while distracting him from his quest.
Mercer’s dreams play like home movies and meld with the story, as the audiobook plays with his head on the long desert stretches. He finds himself indebted to an unlikely cowboy (Bill Duke, Mac from Predator) who teaches him how to stand up. It manages to avoid many of the indie cliches despite being a coming of age road movie, the oldest in the book. It’s a testament to Pucci and Deschanel’s talents that the movie is so appealing, though Hynes does keep us guessing on where the road will take us. Oh, he makes a few nods to classics like Band of Outsiders, but it is remarkably unindulgent for a movie of its kind. Maybe that’s damning with faint praise, but I usually hate movies like this.
In the interest of honesty, Lou Taylor is my cousin, but I try to be even-handed. This is a hugr improvement over the disastrous 50 Pills, and while I liked the insanity of Southland Tales, I’ll be the first to say that it’s more of a prank than a movie. The Go-Getter is on the right track; I didn’t enjoy it as much as the excellent Thumbsucker, but it’s a good movie, better on this second viewing. It’s contemplative and requires your attention. It’s playing on Showtime this month and worth your Tivo space.