The genre of road-trip-leading-to-self-discovery now has another masterpiece in its cinematic vault. Driving in and around small-town New Mexico in a dilapidated station wagon is the modus operandi.
Two brothers: older is the struggling, short story writer, Davy (Brian Geraghty in a superbly nuanced outing that is already one of the finest in 2010); younger (Kel O’Neill’s portrayal of Sean—filled with fun and frisky antics—is an excellent foil to his sibling’s staid demeanour) comes along to share the driving duties and play cashier to the small, generally unenthusiastic audiences that gather in book stores and libraries to hear the creator speak his own words. There’s more excitement counting fraudulent votes in Afghanistan than the imagined dream of adulation, sales and adventure that fuelled the book tour’s conception. A cover-cheesy Harlequin Romance, curiously stowed away in the personal items of the wordsmith who likes to “write about people doing things to other people; my family—not myself” is an early metaphor for fantasies in the offing.
One phone call changes everything.
With Sean conveniently out looking for smokes, Davy is initially startled then assumes he’s the butt of a practical joke after answering the land line in the modest motel room. But, before you can say “lonely and excitable,” dropped boxers have ensnared his pale ankles as the erotic, invisible voice of Nicole (just the right mix of a sultry and commanding tone from Kathryn Aselton, er, so I imagine …) heats up the conversation, inspiring the mutually-horny pair to soon find glorious relief just playing by ear.
In the ensuing calls (Davy gives Nicole his cell number; Nicole’s boy friend—not going well …—is extremely jealous, so she’ll be the one dialling in for pleasure), the phone fucks are Job 1 but, after a few mutual gushers have been discreetly tidied up, “cuddle chat” begins to emotionally bond the unseen pararmours.
Director/writer (based on a story by Davy Rothbart) Kyle Patrick Alvarez crafts these encounters with a first-rate sense of narrative balance and character development. Small details (the “U Pump It” gas station is a fortuitous, metaphoric touch) silently reinforce the action and the many music tracks (notably Emily Easterly’s renderings of “Youth on my Side,” and “Your Cover” as well as “Ghost in the Gutter” thanks to My Latest Novel, “Tell Me it’s True” courtesy of First Digital Music before “Hold Hands and Fight” from the Rosebuds scores a musical knockout) coupled with inventive, visual treats (changing drivers at top speed on the desert shouldn’t be “tried at home,” but easily makes the highlight reel) keep the ear and eye totally engaged.
Inevitably, when Sean cottons on to his bro’s cellular love affair (and isn’t shy about putting his “taken” pecker where it shouldn’t belong: “What happens in New Mexico, stays in New Mexico”) their relationship/understanding to and of each other changes forever.
By journey’s end, Davy and Nicole seem ready to choose the china even if they’ve never truly examined their merchandise.
Once back home, doing his dreary day job as office temp and partying with Sean and his beloved Sarah (Jeanette Brox) then bumping into an ex, Samantha (Marguerite Moreau), which may very well become a “Why not try again …?,” Davy and Nicole have their first lovers’ spat. That non-sexual eruption (dual jealousy) escalates into a six-week, do-it-yourself-to-yourself withholding of auto-stimulus privileges.
The build-up to the film’s inevitable face-to-face meeting is masterfully constructed and beautifully shot (David Rush Morrison, cinematographer).
Still, nothing could prepare the viewer for the torment of sudden knowledge and unbridled emotion that inform every frame of the first real meeting between Davy and the voice-that-has-moved-me-more-than-any-living-being. The actors excel as they reveal their nervousness, incredulity, shame and uncertain hope. Shaky hands and unable-to-connect eyes cannot mask the real link that has been thrown onto the shoals of furtive despair by the triple threat of a most uncomfortable truth.
The writer is faced with a real-life short story that he’d like to extend into a novel; his unexpected object-of-desire is left wondering just how to break the cycle of unrequited love wanted from a “serious man” that fuelled “fingers do the stroking,” faceless sex; perhaps more.
It’s a thought-provoking film that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who’s ever wondered if the love of their lives might, yet, be unexpectedly found.
Special mention to Eugene Byrd—his performance is truly memorable. JWR