Nat (Tony Revolori) is driving his van across the American Southwest toward L.A., and art school. He’s a little sheltered and a little naive due to a cushiony upbringing, but with his trusty camera (with real, actual film, a relic from his granddad) by his side, he’s ready to turn this drive into a sight-seeing tour to get into the right head space before his education properly begins.
Nat does not count on bumping into Richard (Jason Mantzoukas), a mechanic just out of a job when Nat’s van is in desperate need. They trade labour for a ride, and soon the two are unintentionally road tripping together. Richard is an odd duck; he’s volatile but sensitive, impulsive and oddly sweet. Richard gets them into a LOT of trouble, from failed romance to successful highway robbery. But his constant need to put himself out there means they also meet a lot of interesting characters along the road, and a lot of “wisdom” gets dropped. Richard is much more worldly and experienced, but he’s probably not the role model a young man such as Nat needs. But he’s the one he gets.
Tony Revolori could have easily been a Wes Anderson flash in the pan but I’m constantly glad to see him crop up elsewhere. Nat does his growing up, coming of age thing in this film, which means Revolori is in turns adorably nervous all the way to confidently heroic. That’s quite an arc. Richard might be further along the hopeless scale, but he’s confronting his own issues head on, even if he never learns the lesson. Jason Mantzoukas has so far been pretty one-note as an actor – he always turns in these rambunctious, beastly, off-colour characters, but he gives such a committed, over the top performance you can’t help but love him.
Richard is an erratic juggling act for Mantzoukas, and it’s a thrilling to watch.
I’m happy to report that director Hannah Fidell turns in a movie that is neither long nor dumb. It’s just funny and clever enough to be spent amiably. While I wouldn’t want Richard in my car, or heck, even on my bus, and definitely not on my plane, odd couple road trips are a tried and true genre for a reason, and these two put forth a solid, likable entry.