Sunday, August 8, 2010

How I wanted to care

A few months ago, writer/director Joe Leonard sent me a screener for his film, How I Got Lost. (Thanks! Free movie!) Yesterday afternoon, when I was sitting around doing nothing, I thought, well, why not watch it?

Here is another film pondering the meaning of life and what it's all about. Why is it that the filmmakers of my generation and the generation before mine so obsessed with that topic? And why haven't any of those filmmakers been able to provide an original, thoughtful answer?

It's all about going wild! Getting out of your comfort zones! Doing something different! Be spontaneous! Be what you really want to be! Be yourself!

Before we get too excited about all this, let me introduce you to Jake and Andrew, denizens of a post-9/11 New York.

Jake (Aaron Stanford) is an aspiring novelist, which is the best profession when you're pondering the meaning of life. It's always nice to ponder the meaning of life with a typewriter too, even though it's 2002 and everyone else uses a computer. I realize this is an artistic choice, but seriously though!

However, he has an unsatisfying job as a sports writer who covers women's basketball. To add insult to injury, his girlfriend just broke up with him. So not only does he have a job that he absolutely hates, he is suffering from heartbreak and has yet to discover that computers are much more useful than typewriters.

But images of his break-up continue to haunt him. With sappy music and cheesy dialogue.

Andrew (Jacob Fishel) works at Wall Street with a bunch of phonies. He just recently got out of a brief stint in jail and is Contemplating Life Through Alcohol.

The two frequent local bars and after one too many drinks, Jake and Andrew decide to embark on a road trip. First, via taxi. The New York cab driver gives them a free cab ride to Philadelphia if Jake just gives him his shoes. Lucky them. Second, Andrew goes to his mother's house to pick up a car so they can drive to the funeral of Andrew's father in Ohio.

During the "road trip" part of the film, we get more insights about how Jake and Andrew view their empty, disillusioned lives. Andrew hates sucking up to the big guys on Wall Street. He just wants to be the kind of person he wants to be, man!

There is a gas station scene where we are all supposed to believe that a young girl would be left alone at a gas station and give a ride to two grown men back to the middle of nowhere where their car is located. I think it's supposed to be comedic relief, but I'm not really buying it.

When Jake and Andrew finally arrive in small-town Ohio, they attend the memorial. Andrew finally cracks and throws a tantrum in front of his father's friends. The next day, Andrew is ready to leave, but Jake decides to stay in the town to plan Andrew's father's funeral. Wait, doesn't Jake have to work? And seriously now, what kind of person arrives at a memorial, humiliates his dead father, and leaves all the details of his deceased father's funeral arrangements to his friend?

No matter. Jake soon meets a waitress, Leslie (Rosemarie Dewitt), and they share an instant connection. Maybe offering to help Andrew's father's funeral arrangement was a good choice after all! But still!

How I Got Lost is ultimately a story about dealing with grief and friendship. It's about trying to find what's important and what's not underneath the phony exterior of everyday situations. It's about confronting reality and moving forward. It's the kind of film that has been made and made again. The message is getting old, cliched, and predictable. You have to be quite a brilliant mind to be able to make an excellent film about "finding yourself" because it's been done to death. It's almost Mission Impossible.

But it's also film with its heart in the right place. The performances are quite good--Stanford and Dewitt are lovely. But it's Fishel that manages to be warm, funny, tortured and interesting. But the film has serious pace issues--it's much too slow, drags too much, and doesn't seem to have any sort of end-point. It's a character piece, for sure, but the characters' motivations are so thin and incoherent that it's impossible to know where they're going. Yes, we want them to be happy again, but how? I wish I knew them better. C-


  1. I liked it.

    But then I like Joe Leonard, so maybe I'm bias. Here's my interview with the writer/director in case you're interested. It was quite an achievement that they made the film at all! :)

  2. Its really a great thing when Jake and Andrew finally arrive in small-town Ohio. Really lovely situation.