Sunday, April 24, 2011

Exodus Fall (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Exodus Fall

Usually I like road movies. Some quirky characters, racing stretches of land, some zen philosophy and witty banter. Think of some staples of the genre: "Thelma and Louise," "Into the Wild", Easy Rider" and Jim Jarmusch's eccentric "Stranger Than Paradise".  I also  enjoy stories of family dysfunction. "Precious", "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" and "This Boy's Life" are all fine examples. 
It is in this spirit that "Exodus Fall" held promise. A road movie with a car full of kids who escape their horribly abusive mother (played by the  brave and edgy Roseanna Arquette) I get it, let's hit the road!
Oddly, the film made me want to pull into a rest stop and skip the souvenirs.
Yes, you have resourceful kids and a catatonic and selfish  mother that forces them to go to Grandma, but everyone seems to just plod along. The cast is slower than the old clunky station wagon that they travel in. Roseanna Arquette, usually novel in her acting, is so unbearably without decency, that she might as well be wearing a black hat and handlebar  mustache . There is no ambiguity. There is however, a crafty protective older brother (played by Jesse James) who thankfully has some of the introspective charm of the late Heath Ledger, but even his role is too dependable, too perfect, too predictable. And there is an  autistic brother, Dana, (Devon Graye) who, we see, has a great talent for swirling detailed drawings. And he's fascinated by light. But that's all we know. The problem is that we never really get a sense of what this character is like. His individuality Is absent. Everyone seems drawn by a stencil from an ABC Afterschool Special. And I remember. There is even a hippie who looks a bit like Jim Morrison. Hasn't his Lizard King ghost been in enough movies? And a watered down Morrison at that. No irreverence or seductive come- hither stares here.  He says things like "one person's addict is another one's Messiah." and my favorite, "if you don't take the time to enjoy where you are, you won't know where you're  going." Knock me out! That's heavy, man! I think Julia Roberts said better philosophical gems in "Eat Pray Love".
The film does have an interesting 1970 era feel with grainy  color and images that seems to jump and jiggle ever so slightly. The desolate James Rosenquist-like landscapes preserve  a panoramic feel that is easy on the eyes and worthy of the time and place.
But hang on, brother....the car slides away, they steal a car and they are on the run, for the sanity of Grandma's house. With Dana in tow, newly escaped from the institution. Oh no! Here come the pigs!
Hey man, that's cool. I'll hitch a ride later with Jim... Jim Jarmusch.
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