Aspiring novelists start and abandon many a book about a writer trying to write her or his first novel. Aspiring filmmakers do the same. But as movies cost a lot more than a simple word processing program, those that are finished are sure to turn up somewhere.
That’s nobody’s idea of a ringing endorsement to open a film review with, and “On Our Way” is too interesting to dismiss, if entirely too slight, too repetitive, self-absorbed, pretentious and wandering to endorse.
There is no “directed by” opening credit to the film, so going in cold, I didn’t realize the leading lady, Sophie Lane Curtis, also scripted and directed this story of a filmmaker who finally gets a serio-tragic love story based on his life and love affair on film.
That tale is told from the point-of-view of Henry (Micheál Richardson), a young filmmaker whose troubled youth is the fodder for a script he’s labored over for years, even before he met Rosemary (Curtis). When we first encounter him, the walls of the French farmhouse he’s staying in are covered with pages of the screenplay and he’s playing and replaying a phone message from Rosemary and he’s suicidal.
So we’re guessing…something happened to “them,” to “her,” that his script was rejected for the last time, or worse, the picture was greenlit and then put in turnaround before they rolled camera?
Curtis uses an opening montage to foreshadow the entire story — “It’s just a movie!” “It’s my LIFE!” — and flashbacks to backfill the memories of Henry’s mother (Jordana Brewster) spiriting them away from her husband/his “lost boy” dad (James Badge Dale), of the origins of the screenplay “The Lost Boy of Southfork,” his childhood pal (Keith Powers) coming on board to produce the film, Henry’s fateful SoHo meeting with aspiring actress and antiques shop clerk Rosemary and more.
Rosemary gets some of the narrative’s “profound” lines. “People’s truths tend to come out at night.” Henry recites the others.
“I want the world to stop before my memory becomes unfocused,” is an eloquently romantic justification for suicide.
The story’s arc turns into something of a jumble as producer David talks his hardcase hedge fund manager dad (veteran character heavy Paul Ben-Victor) into investing, and the old man — this part of the story taking place in SoCal — knows enough about movies to demand the rights to everything, including the final cut.
“I only invest in things I can control.”
The tepid imitation of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” that the love story aspires to be takes a back seat as players audition for that movie, Henry is cast as his alter ego and somehow, pretty but dramatically-uninteresting Rosemary is cast as the romantic sprite basically based on her.
Ouch. Not knowing the director’s playing her leaves one wondering, until the closing credits, how anybody would think that “audition” was a game changer, and that this performance was ever going to be strong enough to carry a Great Romance and a movie based upon it.
Writer-director and co-star Curtis uses the editing and jumbling of the story order (lots of repetition) to cover up the thinness of the material, and perhaps hide the milquetoast nature of the performances.
Because wrestling with how interesting this might have been, had it reached its full potential, one is inclined to poke around the closing credits for clues.
Micheál Richardson is the son of the late Natasha Richardson and Liam Neeson. His grandmother, Vanessa Redgrave, and her husband Franco Nero play the French grandparents in the film.
That’s not a bad hook to trot around Cannes when you’re looking to finance a film starring yourself and your “longtime friend” Micheál Richardson.
And those names might get the attention of Brewster and Dale to play the “other” parents in the picture, and ensure you can sign Ben-Victor to play the ball-buster/financier who makes himself the studio chief on this production.
If it wasn’t for the fact that the story is so thin it begs for mobius strip editing and the leads are bland and adequate at best, “On Our Way” might have been a movie worth discussing on its own merits, and not simply a movie you “nepo baby” gossip about.
Rating: unrated, suicide subtext, profanity
Cast: Micheál Richardson, Sophie Lane Curtis, Jordana Brewster, Keith Powers, Paul Ben-Victor, Franco Nero, Vanessa Redgrave and James Badge Dale.
Credits: Scripted and directed by Sophie Lane Curtis. A Gravitas Ventures release.
Running time: 1:31