Netflix’s Kodachrome is a film for a lazy Sunday, and I mean you could probably snooze through parts of it, wake up and still get the gist of what’s going on. That’s not a critique of the film itself because it does an awful lot with a familiar story. For its by-the-numbers plotting, Kodachrome serves as a sweet throwback to American road trip films.
Matt Ryder (Jason Sudeikis), a music producer for a small indie label, is in a rather sticky situation. He’s on the verge of getting the sack unless he can find “The Next Big Thing”. To complicate matters, he gets a visit from a young woman named Zoey Barnes (Elizabeth Olsen), who tells him his father, Ben (Ed Harris) is dying. For the last couple of decades, Ben hasn’t really been around. He’s been busy travelling the world, making a name for himself as a top class photographer. Growing up, Matt was often left in the lurch by his dad and years of hurt have built on him.
Zoey tells Matt his father has one final wish before he dies: he wants them all to take a drive to Kansas to have four rolls of Kodachrome developed. The format is about to become obsolete, so this is important for Ben – a matter of urgency. At first, Matt has no interest in fulfilling his father’s wish. As far as he’s concerned, Ben blew his chance of redemption years ago. But, a little persuading from Zoey does the trick and the trio hit the open road across America.
Ben is not a nice guy. He’s sneering, petty and down-right awful most of the time. The story is basically about how Matt and Zoey deal with his behaviour on their road trip. As his personal nurse, Zoey feels inclined to defend Ben even at his most bitter moments. But you get the feeling there’s only so many more buttons the man can press before Zoey snaps.
The dynamic between these three characters is brilliant to watch, as each actor bring an easy naturalism to their roles. Yes, the ghost of every other road-trip drama floats here: the white guy in a mid-life crisis; the dysfunctional parent; the blond-haired dream girl. Familiarity isn’t always a problem, though. When cliches get executed well a film can work.
Granted, Kodachrome does work well, except that it tries way too hard to lead you into deep feelings and ponderings. The film aims for sobs and tears, and there’s not a single shade of subtlety. You might have a problem with the less-than-fresh atmosphere of this film. It depends on personal taste, but Kodachrome is basic, not original in the slightest, yet the story unfolds in quite a resilient way.
Playing to conventions can have its benefits when done right. Kodachrome is a warm welcome back to something you’ve seen a hundred times. Some viewers won’t like the cliches whereas others will enjoy the characters, the beats and the general arc. I knew how this film would end before the first act, but the journey’s just too good not to like. I guess you could say I was charmed. Check it out!
Director: Mark Raso
Writers: Jonathan Tropper (screenplay), A.G. Sulzberger (based upon an article by)
Stars: Ed Harris, Jason Sudeikis, Elizabeth Olsen, Gethin Anthony, Bruce Greenwood
Run Time: 100 minutes.