JWR Articles: Film/DVD - 8 Behind the Wheel (Director/Writer: Trace Burroughs) - June 12, 2009
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8 Behind the Wheel

4 4
93 min.

Driven to despair

Trace Burroughs’ first feature is an intriguing study of the inner thoughts and feelings conjured up by eight individuals driving themselves literally and figuratively to their appointed destinies.

Sustaining interest (both visual and aural) for an extended period is a perennial challenge for the filmmaker and Burroughs largely succeeds. Soliloquies in the theatre are wonderful devices to share a character’s own mind directly with the audience; they are used judiciously, providing a thoughtful lull in the action. Placing his characters in eight different vehicles, travelling alone, Burroughs wisely mixes their talking-out-loud voices with recorded speeches that often reveal unspeakable information: the viewer as mind-reader has quite an appeal.

Still, to prevent tedium, cell phone conversations are allowed, passersby are spoken to and a few journeys are completed, allowing the drivers to leave their cars and go about their business. Music also plays an important role in supporting the drama and keeping the ear engaged. Notable are David Savitsky’s jazzy reed skills, a wordless vocal line (ideal, considering the deluge of text from the players) and baroque/modern violin stylings.

Visually, a variety of angles are used in and outside of the drivers’ seats to tastefully capture a host of extra-curricular activities from chain smoking to gear-shift shielded masturbation. Much grain, filters and a psychedelic kaleidoscope of images further reinforce the notion of escape/survive with prescription drugs or booze, pot and acid.

In the manner of six degrees of separation, it should come as no surprise that there is some connection between the disparate gang of troubled souls. The aging pedophile (Albert Burton) successfully muddies his dubious past with a reference to the North American Man/Boy Love Association; the pizza delivery girl (Katy Castaldi) wrestles with her track record of being dumped three times when the guys switch to the other team (but still want to be friends ...); the jaundiced masseuse (Marguerite Foster) bemoans male clients who expect a “gush darn happy ending” when extras aren’t in her bag of tricks; a budding actress (Amy van Arsdale) dutifully preps for a commercial audition and brilliantly demonstrates why she’ll never get the gig; a drug deal (David Sheridan is a convincing dealer/user) in the woods shifts the connection-to-others track into high gear and from there the film moves steadily forward to its tragic conclusion.

Anyone who’s ever had disturbing thoughts or regretted a choice will appreciate Burroughs’ craft and courage to cast a cinematic light on issues that touch us all. JWR

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