The Long Dumb Road (2018) ☆☆1/2 (2.5/4): Another familiar road trip movie

As watching “The Long Dumb Road”, I was reminded of several other road movies released during this year. At first, we watched Ed Harris, Jason Sudeikis, and Elizabeth Olsen journeying together in “Kodachrome” (2017), and then we saw Vera Farmiga, Christopher Plummer, and Lewis MacDougall hitting the road together in “Boundaries” (2018), and we recently had “Green Book” (2018), in which Viggo Mortensen drives for Mahershala Ali.

In case of “The Long Dumb Road”, it has Tony Revolori and Jason Mantzoukas, and it is often engaging to watch how they pull and push each other on the screen. Although the screenplay by director Hannah Fidell and her co-writer Carson D. Mell does not bring anything particularly new to its genre territory, these two good actors bring a lot to their respective characters, and that compensates for several shortcomings in the film to some degrees.

Revolori, who has been a new talented actor to watch since his breakthrough turn in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014), plays Nathan, a nerdy lad who is about to leave his hometown in Texas and then go to LA for beginning his education in an art college. While he recently broke up with his ex-girlfriend, he is hopeful about the next chapter of his life at least, and he is certainly looking forward to having some interesting experiences as he drives alone from his hometown to LA.

Unfortunately, things do not go as well for him as expected. His car happens to have a problem not long after his departure from his hometown, so he has to walk alone along the road for a while until he eventually arrives at a roadside garage. When he is about to ask for help, he comes across a guy played Mantzoukas, and this guy, named Richard, willingly helps Nathan although he has just been fired by the owner of the garage for some reason.

Once his car is fixed, Nathan offers a ride to Richard, and Richard gladly accepts Nathan’s offer. They are initially supposed to go together just for a few hours, but, of course, they come to spend more time with each other than expected, and then they stay together in an inn which looks more like a trailer park. As suggested by Richard, they later go to a nearby bar, and Nathan certainly has an interesting time there along with Richard, who is quite eager to show Nathan how to enjoy life and manages to succeed in that.

When he comes to learn a bit about Richard’s old high school sweetheart on the next day, Nathan suggests that they should drop by where she currently lives. Although he is reluctant at first, Richard agrees to go there along with Nathan, and he is happy to meet that women in question again, but he inadvertently causes a very awkward moment as misunderstanding how she feels about him and then unwisely following his impulse.

Watching how thoughtless and impulsive Richard can be, Nathan gradually becomes wary of him, but he remains stuck with Richard nonetheless, and then they come across two young women. As Richard charms Nina (Grace Gummer), Nathan comes to befriend Rebecca (Taissa Farmiga), so the situation seems to get a bit better for them, but, of course, there comes another awkward moment as Richard becomes too serious about what is going on between him and Nina. When he does not receive what he wants, he shows his petty, abrasive side again, and then he comes to use a certain word which should not be uttered to any woman in my trivial opinion.

After that narrative point, Nathan and Richard’s relationship becomes more strained than before, and they come to be reconciled due to another trouble coming upon them, but, of course, they come to reconciliate with each other for taking care of their trouble together. Although the story does not give us much surprise during that part, Revolori and Mantzoukas carry their movie well as before. While Revolori is earnest and likable as a young man who is shy but eager for new experiences, Mantzoukas, who recently drew my attention for the first time via his hilarious guest appearance during the second season of TV sitcom series “The Good Place”, is alternatively pathetic and amusing in his spirited comic performance, and, considering what is shown here in this film, we will probably see more of his talent during next several years.

In case of a few substantial supporting performers in the film, they fill their respective spots along the story as much as they can. While Casey Wilson tactfully handles the scene where her character comes to have a little private time with Richard, Gracie Gummer and Taissa Farmiga are rather under-utilized in comparison, and the same thing can be said about Ron Livingston, who appears as Richard’s old friend later in the movie.

While it is not so distinctive compared to countless road movies out there, “The Long Dumb Road” is mostly competent on the technical levels. As leisurely moving from one location to another, it effectively establishes a nice mood through many different landscape shots to enjoy, and cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo, who previously worked in “A Ghost Story” (2017), deserves some commendation for that. Although I am still not impressed enough to recommend it, the movie is fairly watchable thanks to several good things including the effortless chemistry between its two lead performers, and it may provide enough entertainment for you if you just want to kill your free time. It is not so fresh, but it is not entirely without sprit and personality at least.

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