In short, “Kodachrome” is your average road movie. Thoroughly conventional and predictable at its every key narrative point, the movie did not surprise me or touch me much. While there are several good elements to notice, they are not enough to distinguish it from many other similar road movies, and I was eventually left with a rather hollow impression when it was over.
The movie opens with its hero’s serious business situation. While he has been modestly successful as an executive of some small record label located in New York City, Matt Ryder (Jason Sudeikis) is about to get fired because a very popular musician walks away from him and his record label for the contract with a bigger record label, and he must sign any prominent musician to his record label for not getting dismissed by his boss. Fortunately, there is a chance from a famous rock band named the Spare 7’s, and Matt must succeed within 2 weeks.
And then there comes a young woman named Zooey (Elizabeth Olsen), who turns out to be the nurse/assistant of Matt’s estranged father Benjamin (Ed Harris). As a renowned professional photographer, Benjamin has been respected a lot in his field for many years, but he has been quite distant to his son since he abandoned his wife and son a long time ago, and Matt still feels angry about how much Benjamin hurt him and his mother, even though Benjamin is now a dying old man who simply wants his son to accompany him during what is going to be his last journey. Benjamin has four old Kodachrome film rolls which have not been developed yet, but there is the only one photo shop in US where Kodachrome film can be developed, and he needs to go there as soon as possible because that photoshop in question, which is located in Parsons, Kansas, will stop developing Kodachrome film in a few weeks as the Eastman Kodak company ceases to produce the developing solutions for Kodachrome film.
Mainly thanks to the persistent urging from Zooey, Matt reluctantly agrees to visit Benjamin’s apartment for a dinner, but, of course, things do not go well once he and Benjamin sit on the dinner table along with Zooey and Benjamin’s manager Larry (Dennis Haysbert). As seeing again what a callous and insensitive guy his father is, Matt comes to walk away from the dinner table earlier than expected, but then Larry gives him an offer he cannot refuse. Through his old connections, Larry arranges a meeting with the Spare 7’s in Chicago, and all Matt has to do is dropping by Chicago in the middle of his journey with Benjamin.
Right from when Matt gets on Benjamin’s car which is alternatively driven by Zooey and Matt, we can clearly see what we are going to get, and the movie does give us exactly what we expect from it. Yes, Matt and Benjamin surely bicker with each other at times, but they eventually come to settle in a sort of equilibrated state as Zooey functions as the buffer between them, and the movie accordingly gives us a number of wide landscapes shots which are accompanied with, what do you know, sentimental pop songs. Yes, as Zooey often reminds Matt of what is wrong with him, we sense a certain mutual feeling developed between them, and we are not so surprised at all when Matt makes a little forward step toward her later in the story.
Meanwhile, the movie dutifully supplies several small episodic scenes as its three main characters roll from one spot to another, but we do not get much surprise from these nice but mostly predictable moments, and the screenplay by Jonathan Tropper is often hampered by its numerous plot contrivances. When Ben and Matt visit Ben’s brother Dean (Bruce Greenwood) along with Zooey, it looks like Ben and his brother put away those old feelings between them, but there eventually comes an uncomfortable moment when Ben blurts out an old secret in front of others, and Matt is naturally exasperated by this. When Matt finally meets the Spare 7’s in Chicago, Ben helps his son through a small piece of advice, but then the movie takes an artificial left turn, and it never recovers from that as lurching toward to its predestined arrival point.
In case of those four Kodachrome film rolls in the film, I do not dare to reveal anything about their contents, but I bet some of you have already guessed why they are so important to Benjamin. When its contents are finally revealed during the ending of the film (is that a spoiler?), we are supposed to be touched along with Matt, but the movie does not build enough emotional base for that, and I must tell you that what is shown during the following end credits are far more memorable in comparison.
Anyway, the movie, which is incidentally shot on 35mm Kodak film, is a mildly enjoyable experience thanks to the competent direction of director Mark Raso, and his three main performers try their best with their respective roles. While Jason Sudeikis, who has shown his more serious side during recent years, ably dials down his comic persona, Ed Harris, who has been always reliable throughout his long, illustrious acting career, gives us a couple of sincere monologue scenes to be appreciated while never overlooking his character’s unpleasant aspects, and Elizabeth Olsen, who has been one of the most interesting actresses in Hollywood after her breakthrough turn in “Martha Marcy May Marlene” (2011), brings some life and spirit to her character despite being under-utilized on the whole.
“Kodachrome”, which is currently available on Netflix in US, is not entirely disappointing, and I enjoyed how Sudeikis, Harris, and Olsen enhance their characters to some degrees, but I still cannot help but be reminded of its many flaws which distracted me a lot during my viewing. I saw many road movies better than this, and I think you should look for them first, but I will not stop you if you just want to spend your free time on anything passable.