Thursday, August 7, 2014

Land Ho!

The reviews on this Icelandic travelogue were not great but, come on: Stella Gets Her Groove Back, only with two old dudes tramping around a volcanic island! How can you pass that up? And, over time, the ratings on this film have gradually gone up.

The premise is simple enough: Lecherous and wildly inappropriate doctor Mitch corrals pal and former in-law Colin, into a trip to Iceland. Colin's just suffered a breakup, and seems a bit buttoned-down (Australian, but more what Americans would see as stereotypically English), especially next to Mitch (Texan or some other belligerent form of Southerner), enough so that he turns Mitch down.

Mitch has already bought the tickets and paid for the trip, though, because he knew Colin would say no.

And there's your set up. Young filmmakers Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens have made themselves a nice little film, which manages to be funny without being shallow, and awkward without being disrespectful.

The movie is powered by the unusual chemistry between Earl Lynn Nelson (Mitch) and Paul EenHoorn (Colin). Colin is normal, mopey, even boring. Mitch is loud and a pain in the ass, but adventurous in a way that makes life fun. (Nelson is a cousin of Stephens, while I think Paul Eenhoorn has more experience and worked with Katz on a previous project. But they both feel like people you've known your whole life.)

Sort of like a Scandinavian, sexagenarian version of The Trip, dialogue and plot-points are interspersed with shots of geysers and food.

It's a brisk hour-and-a-half, that is perhaps a little too brisk. It sort of feels like it ends right before the second act crisis. Like you're just getting warmed up and...it's over!

Well, Katz and Stephens were trying to make a movie with no money, and they did a pretty damn good job. It reminds me of Short Term 12, though I'm guessing Short's million dollar budget far outstripped Land Ho! (which may not have cracked six digits). But what I'm getting at is that a lot of these low (and ultra-low) budget guys are zeroing in on essential elements of storytelling the big guys just gloss over. For example: characterization.

There's a general freeness to the film to that works to its advantage: Shots you wouldn't normally see in a modern movie, like a sudden zoom. Or a segment filmed like you would a horror movie.

The Boy and The Flower were both pretty pleased; even if it's not great or epic or high drama, Land Ho! is a hard film not to like.

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