Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Road to Nowhere

Directed by Monte Hellman and written by Steven Gaydos, Road to Nowhere is the story of a filmmaker who falls for a young actress as she is suspected for her involvement in the disappearance of a rich couple. Yet, he bases on the story of a disappearance as makes it into a film with his new muse. The film explores the world of art and how one is willing to go into delving into dark realities. Starring Cliff de Young, Shannyn Sossaman, Dominique Swain, Tygh Runyan, Fabio Testi, Waylon Payne, and John Diehl. Road to Nowhere is an intriguing but very pretentious film from Monte Hellman.

Mitchell Haven (Tygh Runyan) is a young filmmaker on the rise as he has decided to make his next project about the disappearances and possible deaths of a rich couple named Rafe Tachen (Cliff de Young) and Velma Duran (Shannyn Sossaman) that also led to the death of a corrupt cop (John Diehl). After reading a report on a blog by reporter Nathalie Post (Dominique Swain), Haven decides to make the project for his next film as it is to star Cary Stewart (Cliff de Young) in the role of Rafe Tachen. During the casting process for the film, Haven makes a discovery in a young actress named Laurel Graham (Shannyn Sossaman) whom he decides to meet in Rome, Italy where she’s traveling. While she looks a lot like Duran, Haven cast her for the role of Duran as Haven falls for her.

In hopes to make the film into a masterpiece, he decides to shoot the film on location where Post joins the set along with an insurance investigator named Bruno Brotherton (Waylon Payne) serves as the film’s consultant. With Haven working on the film with his actors, Brotherton tries to piece everything out that really happens with Post’s help. While Haven becomes more intent on making his film better while being enamored with Graham’s beauty. Brotherton suspects something isn’t right as he starts to think that Graham isn’t exactly who she seems to be as Haven becomes unsure of what is happening.

The film is noir-telling of a murder and possible mystery involving the loss of $100 million and a couple’s disappearance that is re-told by a young filmmaker who hopes to create a film as great as those he’s inspired by. Yet, it is a film that blurs the world of fiction and reality as a filmmaker tries to create a film where there’s a man playing the same man who looks exactly like him. Steven Gaydos’ screenplay does play into the world of film noir while creating a storyline where it’s a film-within-a-film. It’s a premise that is interesting but also confusing since there’s characters who play doppelgangers of the story they’re portraying. Even as there’s this gorgeous ingenue who would meet this man and another man (Fabio Testi) in which the latter claims to be the dead woman’s father.

Though things start to make sense towards the end about what is going on, the payoff of the story isn’t very satisfying as the only reveal is what is happening in the film’s opening scene. Gaydos’ script does create a lot of interesting characters and utilize suspense in a nice way. The problem is that he creates a narrative where it tries to move back and forth into fiction and reality where it would end up confusing the audience into what they’re seeing.

Monte Hellman’s direction is truly mesmerizing in some of the making of the film scenes as well as the actual real-life story that occurs in the film. Maintaining the noir-like tone of the film for a lot of these re-enactments, Hellman’s approach to the scenery is very entrancing in the way its filmed and set-up. The way he opens the film is another moment that is interesting where it’s shot in a room featuring Post and Haven as they put in a DVD-R with the film’s title into a laptop as the camera slowly zooms into the scene they’re watching. There’s a lot of great moments in the direction including some of the making-of film scenes. Still, the script’s shortcomings involving the investigation and scenes involving the doppelgangers don’t really work despite the beautiful locations. Due to the script’s messy narrative and emphasis to be meta in its approach to reality and fiction, Hellman creates a film that is about the sum of its parts rather than the whole thing.

Cinematographer Joesp M. Civit does a brilliant job with the film‘s lush yet evocative digital photography that is shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II that truly breathes beauty into the look of the North Carolina locations along with more gorgeous work for some of the nighttime scenes in Europe. Editor Celine Ameslon does a nice job with the editing to play up the rhythm of the film‘s suspense without delving into more stylish rhythmic cuts while playing along to the film‘s unique although confusing story structure. Production designer Laurie Post, along with art directors Callie Andreadis and Araceli Lemos, does a terrific job with the look of the posh world of Hollywood as well as the more refined yet comfortable world of the North Carolina locations the characters work at for the film.

Costume designer Chelsea Staebell does some fine work with the costumes as most of it is casual with the exception of Laurel who puts on some very stylish clothes to play up her personality. Visual effects work by Joseph Schultz does some very good work with the minimal visual effects used in the film such as the scenes involving the plane. Sound editor Aynee Osborn does an excellent job with the sound work to convey the sense of dread and suspense that occurs including in some of the film‘s intimate moments. The film’s music consists of country songs performed by Tom Russell is wonderful as it plays to many of the film’s dramatic moments.

The film’s ensemble cast is great as it features some notable appearances from Fabio Testi as Velma’s father, John Diehl as the cop and actor who plays the cop in the incident scene, Rob Kolar as the film’s screenwriter, and film producer Peter Bart as himself for an interview scene with Haven. Waylon Payne is pretty good as the charming but nosy insurance investigator Bruno Brotherton who would uncover some mysteries about the actual story on the film that is being made. Dominique Swain is terrific as the lively journalist Nathalie Post who would help Brotherton in the investigation while providing insight about what might’ve happened. Cliff de Young is excellent in the dual roles of smarmy millionaire Rafe Tachen as well as the aging yet concerned actor Carey Stewart.

Tygh Runyan is good as filmmaker Mitchell Haven who is desperate to create a great film only to lose sight of his work as it’s a performance that has some moments though Runyan is sort of bland in his performance. Finally, there’s Shannyn Sossaman in a remarkable performance in the dual roles of Velma Duran and Laurel Graham. Sossaman brings a very ethereal and enchanting approach to her character who could be the same person while dealing with all of the chaos that goes on in the set and the mystery surrounding the incident.

Road to Nowhere is a decent but messy film from Monte Hellman despite some amazing scenes and a captivating performance from Shannyn Sossaman. While it is great to see Hellman back in the film world after a 21-year hiatus. It doesn’t mean that his return should be totally applauded due to the film’s indistinct script. Still, Road to Nowhere isn’t a total waste of time as it does feature some amazing nods to film noir and suspense told from one of indie cinema’s great masters.

Monte Hellman Films: (Beast from Haunted Cave) - (Flight to Fury) - (Back Door to Hell) - (Ride in the Whirlwind) - (The Shooting) - (Two-Lane Blacktop) - (Cockfighter) - (The Greatest (1977 film) - (China 9, Liberty 37) - (Avalanche Express) - (Iguana) - (Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out)

© thevoid99 2012

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