Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sundance movie twelve: Rudderless

Members of the production team for Rudderless
Rudderless may be the best movie I saw at Sundance 2014. Although The Case Against 8 and To Be Takei are certainly in the running, each garnering five Jeffies.

Rudderless is the story of Sam, a big time advertising executive who waits at a bar for his son in hopes of sharing some good news. His son doesn't show and Sam sees a story on the bar's TV that there has been a shooting at his son's college.  Sam is devastated by the death of his son.

Sam loses his sleek ad-man look and becomes something of an alcoholic hermit, living in a docked boat.  After he is forced to confront a box of CDs filled with recordings of his son's songs, he ultimately decides to perform one of the songs at an open mike night.  In the audience is a young musician named Quentin.  He's emotionally taken by the song and after much effort convinces Sam to join him as a duo which ultimately becomes a band; a band that starts to experience just the tiniest bit of success.

Director William H. Macy (who has a small role in the movie) and his co-writers Casey Twenter and Jeff Robison deserve a lot of credit for crafting a startling movie that is funny, tragic, and brilliantly surprising.  This is one review that won't give any away any spoilers because the surprise in the movie is so well executed.  Few movies have delivered a twist in such a surprising and convincing way.

I also have to give a ton of credit to Mary Vernieu and Michelle Wade Byrd for some of the best casting I've seen in decades.  Billy Crudup is brilliant as Sam and his musical skills are epic.  His performance is matched scene for scene by Anton Yelchin as Quentin.  Performances by the rest of the band create a truly convincing musical drama.  Add in some adept cameos by Felicity Huffman and Selena Gomez and you have a movie that is a mighty rewarding experience.

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