Road To Nowhere (2011)
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Critic Reviews for Road To Nowhere
The final scene offers clarity, at least, if not a satisfying payoff.
"The Road to Nowhere" plays like an exercise in frustrating audiences.
Ultimately, the film gets too clever and confusing for its own good, while the slow pacing zaps momentum from the story (and the story within the story).
A rabbit hole of enigmatic characters and swampy motives...Shot by shot, the film has a burnished, beautiful sheen.
Audience Reviews for Road To Nowhere
Road to Nowhere (Monte Hellman, 2010) Like everyone else, I knew the name Monte Hellman thanks to his cult favorite Two-Lane Blacktop (which stars a young James Taylor, of all people); I had no idea he was still making movies until a few years ago, at which point I set out to try and track a few down. Netflix Instant Streaming was my friend, first pointing me to the anthology flick Trapped Ashes, of which Hellman's entry is the best by a country mile, and then to this wonderful little talk-piece-cum-slow-thriller, the kind of avant-garde nightmare that tends to make fans of more accessible thrillers cringe (thus, I would assume, its low ratings at the usual suspects; 5.5 at IMDB, 38% public on Rotten Tomatoes-but, as I am fond of noting when I see it, the gulf between the public and the critical receptions to this movie is massive. The critical rating at RT: 79%). I'll add to the gap: I think it's goddamn brilliant, though I have to agree with Roger Ebert's pithy quote that the film "plays like an exercise in frustrating audiences." This is a thriller for Apichatpong Weerasethakul fans, at least if I am any yardstick to judge by. Steven Gaydos (All Men Are Mortal)' script is an ensemble piece masquerading as a straightforward thriller. The surface plot: a hot young filmmaker, Mitchell Haven (Snakes on a Plane's Tygh Runyan), heads into the backwoods of the deep south to make a movie based on a local unsolved mystery. He finds, and casts, a leading lady who seems to be everything he could want for his movie, Laurel Graham (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang's Shannyn Sossamon); she knows all kinds of trivia about the crime even Mitchell is unaware of. Eventually, that leads to the question: is Laurel Graham actually Velma Duran, the supposed culprit? But trying to give you an easy synopsis of a Monte Hellman movie strikes me as being as frustrating, and as spurious, an exercise as trying to do the same with a film by one of Hellman's contemporaries, Jon Jost. It's not a casual comparison; I get the same things from Jost's filmic exercises, those I've seen anyway, as I do from Road to Nowhere. The plot wanders in and out of focus as other interesting subplots take to the fore, almost as if something interesting had caught the director's eye and he said "hey, let's take this out and see where it goes if we let it wander off down its own road." That can be an exercise, for some viewers, in beating one's head against the wall. This isn't Steven Seagal action movie stuff, the kind of movie where a committee goes over the script and the first question they ask about every scene is "how does this scene advance the main plot?". That's the kind of advice you get in how-to-write books, and if you're looking to appeal to the Hollywood-loving masses, it's valuable advice. But Road to Nowhere is something different. Hellman was looking for art, I think. My head keeps coming back to Jon Jost; there is a lot of meat on the bone of comparing Road to Nowhere to Jost's similar wandering thriller Last Chants for a Slow Dance, methinks. Putting all that aside and looking at the technical aspects of the film, the things that are going to keep the non-art-school kids interested, well, there's not much to complain about; Hellman pulled together an exceptional cast (John Diehl, Dominique Swain, Cliff de Young, and Waylon Payne round out the principals), put them all in front of award-winning Spanish cinematographer Josep Civit (Anguish), and let them all do what they do best. Are you going to like it? I can't tell you that. Did I? I loved it. This is the kind of movie that, if you see it with a group of friends in an otherwise-deserted theater, will have you sitting in the dive bar next door until closing time arguing about it. Loudly. *** 1/2
Hard to believe "Road to Nowhere" is what lured director Monte Hellman back to feature films after a 22-year break. This film-within-a-film aims to be a David Lynch-like puzzle in which alter-ego director Mitchell Haven (Tygh Runyan) casts troubled novice Laurel Graham (Shannyn Sossamon) in his erratic dramatization of a true story about a doomed, con-artist couple. Scenes occur both inside and outside the fictional film without adequate warning, and this arty ambiguity is as about as far as the movie's pleasures go. Well, unless you count Sossamon's stunningly photogenic face. As shooting continues, Mitchell and Laurel becomes lovers and this compromises the project -- smitten Mitchell begins skewing scenes toward his lady, much to the dismay of the screenwriter and other cast members (Cliff De Young plays her older co-star). Meanwhile, a story consultant and insurance investigator (Waylon Payne) is equally fixated on Laurel, and believes she is secretly portraying herself after switching identities to avoid capture. It's all quite confusing, and not interesting enough to worry about. "Road to Nowhere" could be enjoyable if -- like Lynch -- Hellman was a more stylized filmmaker, but this conspicuously flat work not only lacks striking camera movement but doesn't even have a musical score. Overlong at 121 minutes (at the very least, those indulgent excerpts from "The Lady Eve," "The Seventh Seal" and "Spirit of the Beehive" could be cut), this film will thoroughly exhaust most viewers' patience.
Most of the supporting performances are pretty weak but I respect what Monte Hellman is trying to do here. The seamless weaving in and out of the present, the past, and the film the characters are making suggests a world where there are no physical boundaries to separate our reality and ones that we create. Its the kind of story David Lynch would tell, but Hellman uses realism instead of the surreal, so its easy to get lost. By the end even the characters seem unsure of where they are.
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