Martin Hynes’ haunting coming-of-age tale is a a fish out of water story, and a road trip, a darkly funny drama and a dour comedy. Mercer (Lou Taylor Pucci from “Thumbsucker”) is a smart, sensitive, emotional, quiet, reserved teenager stuck in a virginal dead-end high school existence in Eugene, Oregon. One day, he gets the idea – he’s going to wear his friend’s uniform to his friend’s place of employment (a car wash) and steal a car. Not long into his journey, a cell phone rings. It’s the owner of the car. On the other end is the mysterious, sexy-voiced angel Kate (Zooey Deschanel), a sweet and saucy-sounding young gal, vaguely dreamy, with just the slightest tinge of melancholy. Her conversations with Mercer will keep him company, and provide the heart and soul of this film. Mercer, it seems, is on his way to find his long-lost elder half-brother Arlen (Jsu Garcia), who left home years and years ago. Mercer and Arlen’s mother has passed away and, of course, Arlen doesn’t know yet. Mercer will make many stops along the way, including an integral sojurn to a California commune of sorts where the kindly treatment from a spaced-out girl called Better Than Toast (Judy Greer of “Arrested Development”) contrasts sharply with the anger and violence of Nick the Potter (Nick Offerman). Seems Arlen left a bad taste in the mouths of many he came into contact with, as Mercer will soon discover. From there, Mercer gets the idea to go to Nevada and seek out the vaguely naughty ex-classmate from high school Joely (Jena Malone), who he describes as “the kind of girl you would want to take a road trip with.” He soon discovers that she wasn’t all she was cracked up to be, however, when they hook up with her pal Rid (William Lee Scott). His odyssey will also include run-ins with a traveling liquor supply man (Bill Duke) who gives him some friendly advice, a creepy homemade porn director who calls himself “Sergio Leone” (Julio Oscar Mechoso), a slightly troublesome pet shop owner (Maura Tierney) who is part of a rock band performing community service, and others. His trip will take him from Oregon to California, to Nevada and back to California, and finally to Mexico and Louisiana. Along the way, he may discover what it means to be a man. Martin Hynes, the writer-director, has crafted a thoughtful and sometimes very funny human comedy for his first feature. Hynes, you may recall, played the title character in Joe Nussbaum’s much-beloved short film “George Lucas in Love” (1999), a fusion (obviously) of “Star Wars” and “Shakespeare in Love” (1998). As a filmmaker, Hynes is never flashy, but always remarkably confident. He seems to know the world of these characters inside and out and provides us with an accute attention to detail, almost never striking a wrong note. Pucci is a reliable leading man, portraying basically a lovable loser who is the most human and understandable of everyone. Deschanel is flawed but sexy, funny and off-beat, like an independent film fantasy come to life, vaguely recalling her work as the similar Kat on TV’s “Weeds.” The supporting cast is top-notch, from the seductive bad girl Malone to the amusing Greer to the curious and intriguing Tierney and the informative and inspiring Duke; even Garcia proves to be more than he first appears. Byron Shah’s cinematography is great to look at, but never draws attention to itself; its almost documentary-like approach to the material is spot-on. M. Ward’s haunting songs pepper the soundtrack and suit the mood perfectly. Ultimately, this is the story of a young man’s quest to grow up and as such, it’s quite wonderful.


Leave a comment

Filed under 2008

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s