Around the Bend
Christopher Walken, Josh Lucas, Michael Caine
Director: Jordan Roberts
Warner Independent Pictures
Sara M. Fetters
the Bend" a Trip to Nowhere
Josh Lair (Josh Lucas), a mild-mannered bank manager
and parent currently separated from his wife while she paints in
Nepal, longs for the simple life, one with few quirks and whimsies, but
that’s a dream hard to realize. Why? Well, his eccentric archaeologist
grandfather Henry (Michael Caine) spends all his waking hours
investigating serpentine death rituals, while the Scandinavian nurse (Glenne
Headly) charged with watching over him is obsessed with watching
schlock horror movies full of evisceration and beheadings.
Six-year-old son Zach (Jonah Bobo) is fascinated by both, reveling in
stories told by his great-grandfather about primitive cultures and
lands far, far away.
Jason’s estranged father Turner (Christopher Walken) arrives out of
nowhere to pay his respects to his dying dad, nothing remotely simple
is foreseeable in the Lair family’s future. An ancient secret has
separated Turner from Jason, father leaving son in the hands of the
grandfather at a young age after a tragic accident. Henry can’t stand
for this separation to last any longer, and if a deathbed quest is
what it is going to take to reunite the long-lost twosome than a quest
is exactly what they are all going to get.
inspired by the relationship between writer-director Jordan Roberts
and his own absentee father, “Around the Bend” is a peculiar, fanciful
adventure wearing its eccentricities on its sleeve. With a cast this
strong, the picture is easy to watch, but Roberts can’t help but pile
on the goop and schmaltz undercutting any emotional resonance he hopes
to achieve with a banal whimsy that grates on the nerves. Pity, for
there is a good little movie aching to explode out of this painfully
facile wrapper, even if this freshman filmmaker hasn’t a clue how to
bring it forth.
The cast does
what they can. Lucas, best known for playing the redneck love interest
of Reese Witherspoon in “Sweet Home Alabama”, is charming in the
central role balancing Josh’s multiple sides beautifully. Caine, whose
part is essentially nothing more than a cameo, does more with a gentle
smirk and twist of the eyelid than most actors do with a Shakespearean
sonnet, and he shares a delightfully adolescent chemistry with young
Bobo. Only the usually reliable Headly, reuniting with Caine for the
first time since their classic pairing in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,”
fails to connect, her character nothing more than a series of idiotic
quirks and tics far below the actress’ talents.
show, however, and for all of the film’s faults he almost makes this
mess worth seeing all by himself. Turner is a wounded soul, a
journeyman haunted by a single moment he can’t turn away from. Not
music nor theft nor drugs nor women can cloud his memories of that one
fateful day, his only goal in his waning days to get back to the one
place he felt the most human; the most a man. Walken is spectacular,
walking a fine line between eccentricity, redemption and emotional
imprisonment, making Turner a firestorm of activity and one whose
final denouement can’t help but hit home like a punch to the stomach.
It’s almost as if he’s in a stronger, more fully realized picture than
the rest of the cast taking “Around the Bend” into places I’m not sure
Roberts intended for it to go.
matches up to the performance. Roberts’ film moves in fits and starts,
traveling to location after location with no sense of time or reality.
Characters pop up and then disappear, really for no reason at all, and
last minute plot twists intended to move the audience to tears instead
left me slapping my head. And while it all looks and sounds great,
Mike Grady’s dust-driven cinematography and David Baerwald’s music are
wonderful, none of that matters much if you don’t care about any of
the characters, and to say I didn’t is certainly an understatement.
It seems to me, the biggest lesson Roberts needs to
take away from this is that just because people are whimsical or
eccentric, that doesn’t necessarily make them interesting. Those
traits can only carry a viewer so far before they quickly lose
interest, especially if no other remotely human characteristics are
forthcoming. And while Walken deservedly steals the show, going
“Around the Bend” is tantamount to taking a trip to nowhere.
êê (out of
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