F Road movie
Written & directed by Shana Feste
Road movies follow a very close formula. Two or three people, usually relatives who hate each other, are forced together on a long road trip. Along the way, they argue, learn more about each other, and bond. In the end, they’ve learned something about themselves and are maybe a little bit happier.
Sometimes, as in Little Miss Sunshine, Smoke Signals, and the recent Kodachrome, the formula works beautifully. But in Boundaries, it stinks. The characters are types, not real people. The jokes fall flat. The feel-good ending makes you feel good only because you’ve survived the ordeal of watching the movie.
Boundaries’ low quality is all the more surprising considering the stellar cast. The movie stars Vera Farmiga and Christopher Plummer, with Christopher Lloyd, Peter Fonda, and former Daily Show correspondent Kristen Schaal popping up along the way. And yet these fine performers can barely summon up a believable emotion – or bring the audience to laugh.
Farmiga plays a divorced mother with a son who’s just been expelled from middle school (Lewis MacDougall) and a house full of cats and dogs. She constantly rescues animals, and its clearly an obsession. She even hides this behavior from her therapist. (The movie starts with her talking to a mental health professional; a bad sign.)
The plot gets going when her 85-year-old father (Plummer) gets thrown out of his retirement home for growing pot on the grounds. He tricks his daughter into driving him to Los Angeles, so he could live with his other daughter (Schaal). And off they go by car – Mom, Grandpa, and the weird son who likes to draw naked people. They start the trip with two dogs and gain another one on the road.
Grandpa has a secret reason for the journey. He’s planning to sell pot along the way, and has several connections lined up. Without telling his daughter, he brings his barely adolescent grandson into the criminal activity. The kid doesn’t seem interested in using cannabis, but he sure is interested in the money.
The filmmakers don’t even get marijuana right. Grandpa has a greenhouse full of pot on the premises, but the people running the old age home have just discovered it. The road trip goes from Seattle to Los Angeles, which means pot is legal everywhere they go. Why bother to buy it illegally? And no, this isn’t a period piece; almost everyone has a smartphone. There’s one line of dialog mentioning how it’s becoming legal, but that feels like a quick excuse.
But I could have overlooked that flaw if Boundaries had been a good movie, instead of a shallow, unfunny mess.