Directed by: Monte Hellman
Premise: A director making a drama based on an unsolved crime finds that his leading lady has links to the case.
What Works: The early scenes of Road to Nowhere set the film up as an interesting mystery and there are some creepy but humorous moments intended to lampoon Hollywood that in other hands could have made this film a clever satire. Unfortunately, things go terribly awry and the film literally goes nowhere.
What Doesn’t: Like the similarly disastrous Sleeping Beauty, The Road to Nowhere is the kind of film that demonstrates art house values gone bad. This film puts on a dark and edgy face with pretensions to be meta-textual or self-reflexive but this picture is just a mess. The filmmakers attempt to merge the crime stories of the Coen Brothers with the unsettling absurdities of David Lynch but they fail at both, achieving neither the Coen’s wit nor Lynch’s artfulness. There is an important lesson to take from Road to Nowhere’s failures. Before filmmakers can begin to play with form they must understand what storytelling forms and narrative conventions exist for in the first place. The filmmakers behind Road to Nowhere have skipped ahead and are running before they can walk and as a result they trip over themselves. This fault is paralleled in the filmmakers regard for their audience. A viewer needs a point of reference and it is important for filmmakers to figure out what kind of story they are trying to tell and communicate that to the audience early in the picture. Only when the viewer understands what he or she is looking at can the viewer settle in and orient him or herself in the picture. The Road to Nowhere never settles on what kind of film it is trying to be; it constantly throws new material into the picture as though the script were made of pages from other screenplays randomly assembled together. Road to Nowhere is impossible for the viewer to follow and the story is so mishandled and its ideas are so garbled that it is unclear if the filmmakers can follow it either. By the end it isn’t just confusing but also boring and even if if it were possible to make sense of all this it wouldn’t amout to much.
Bottom Line: Road to Nowhere is an art house disaster. When a film manages to foul up its execution so thoroughly that The Human Centipede 2 looks brilliant by comparison, it’s a sign that something has gone terribly wrong.
Episode: N/A (January 22, 2012)