On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand from the perspective of watching them from the comfort of your home. This week, Bass Ackwards.
Executive produced by Sundance veteran Mark Duplass (excellent as an actor in TV's THE LEAGUE, and director of The Puffy Chair and Baghead) and written/directed by and starring Linas Phillips, Bass Ackwards had it's world premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival as one of eight films selected for inclusion in this year's new category NEXT that recognizes micro-budget films.
Linas (pronounced LINN-us) is a V-neck-wearing sad sack eking out a living as a wedding videographer in Seattle. He lives temporarily on his friends' couch and attempts to have a more meaningful relationship with an unavailable woman. When he gets kicked off the couch and the woman refocuses on her existing relationship, he resorts to making a cross country trip back home to his parents in a modified VW "shorty" bus. Along the way he meets some interesting people who may or may not have a lasting impression on his life.
The film does feel familiar to some other independent festival work. The tone is somber, the soundtrack consists of a lone, ethereal, super-saturated guitar, the performance style is ultra-subtle and the pace can at times be painfully slow. The film is a journey but the aim is not to "entertain" in the traditional sense. It seems mainly exploratory.
The poster of this film and signature image -- two men relieving themselves away from camera in the middle of nowhere separated by the VW bus -- evokes its best elements. The cinematography is beautiful but not too pretty as it explores the minutia of the imperfect world Linus inhabits. The bus, a downright absurd vehicle, is the most stand-out casting in the film. The relationship that develops between the two pictured characters, Linus and Jim (played by Jim Fletcher, also credited as a co-writer), is the most satisfying one in the story -- it just arrives too late, almost an hour in. Before that, you might find yourself wondering if anything is ever going to happen.
It's an admirable gamble for any filmmaker to cast themselves as the lead, especially when that character is so aimless and wishy-washy that they run the risk of being unsympathetic. Luckily, Linus' incredibly unwise decision to allow the shifty stranger, Jim, to enter his van and ride with him does give us the U-turn we were waiting for. Turns out Jim is a decent guy with a whole other host of problems and this random, unexpected pairing gives the film its heart.
By the end, the culmination of events seems to be a comment about letting people in and unexpected rewards, but like the protagonist's bus ride, it takes long, lonely time getting there.
Sean McPhillips is a new contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. He is a former vice president of acquisitions for Miramax Films (During Harvey's reign). He is a current writer/director for NY-based Secret Hideout Films as well as Festival Coordinator, Programmer for the brand new Gold Coast Film Festival (to make its debut in June, 2011).