Film review: ‘KODACHROME’, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built for Speed’

The road trip drama has long been a convenient cinematic device for forcing warring family members to cohabit and thrash out their issues while imbibing the attractive landscapes through which they travel. The low-key, low-budget film Kodachrome is a familiar road trip redemption story but one that benefits from better-than-average performances.

Jason Sudeikis stars as arrogant and once successful record company talent scout Matt Ryder who is now struggling to find his place in a changing world. When he loses a major artist, he’s given two weeks to sign another big-name band or he’s fired. In the midst of this dilemma he’s asked to accompany his long-estranged, contemptible and terminally ill photographer father Ben (Ed Harris) and his personal assistant Zoe (Catherine Olsen) on road trip to Kansas to develop Ben’s last roll of Kodachrome film before the film company shuts forever.

With the protagonist a disillusioned son with employment problems and the film evoking nostalgia through music, Kodachrome may on paper resemble the Cameron Crowe clunker Elizabethtown. Thankfully, Kodachrome is a much more believable and grounded film than Cameron Crowe’s borderline turkey and through its modest ambitions comes closer to a film like the touching Aussie drama Last Cab to Darwin.

As he showed in Pollock, few can do it irascible artistic genius as convincingly as Ed Harris; he’s an obnoxious git for much of this film but there’s just enough humanity bubbling below the surface to make him tolerable. Jason Sudeikis has spent most of his film career seemingly trying to usurp the Chevy Chase throne as Hollywood’s premier purveyor of smarmy smart-ass characters but thankfully he’s started venturing into different territory with oddball dramas like last year’s Colossus and more humanist efforts like Kodachrome. Given that the music scene defines his character, though, it would have been good to learn more about Matt’s favourite bands and what inspired his career. Catherine Olsen is largely known as Red Witch from the Avengers films but she shows she can deliver an engaging performance in a low-key drama.

The film mostly follows the terminal illness/ road trip formula which makes it a little predictable and deprives it of some emotional impact but it’s still effecting at times. The metaphor of a redundant technology (in this case photographic film) reflecting Ben and Mark’s lives is fairly obvious and a couple of times the dialogue unnecessarily spells this out but it’s not too distracting.

Within its limited scope, Kodachrome is an engaging if not essential drama.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Drama/ Road trip.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Mark Raso.

Release date: 7th June 2018.

Running time: 105 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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