Kodachrome was released in 2017 and is featured currently on Netflix. The Film stars Ed Harris, Elizabeth Olsen, and Jason Sudeikis. The story is set during the final days of the admired photo development system known as “Kodachrome”, a father and son hit the road in order to reach the Kansas photo lab before it closes its doors for good. The key here is that father and son are deeply estranged, and the father, a well-renowned photographer, is dying of Cancer. Time is running out on all counts, for both Kodachrome, life, and forgiveness.
Written by Jonathan Tropper (Screenplay)
Based on an article by A.G. Sulzberger
Directed by Mark Raso
“No matter how good something looks, you can’t beat the real thing.”
I love road trip movies. It is one of my favorite genres of Film. Or would that be sub-genre? I was discussing the appeal of road trip stories in movies and I came up with one of the main reasons I love them so. A typical movie is only an hour and a half to two hours in length, which is not a lot of time for real character development. But, put your characters in a car, somewhat isolated from anyone else sans a roadside gas station attendant, bartender, or waitress/waiter, and you are allowed some space and time to explore characters, personalities, nuances, and relationships. It also makes it all the more believable when bonding happens, or attraction, or healing.
Also, admittedly I love a good road trip movie because I love a good (or even mediocre) road trip. Since life and responsibilities limit the amount of time I can hit the road for anything other than the daily commute, road trip movies let my gypsy soul live vicariously.
Kodachrome is almost completely a road trip story, from start to finish.
It is also a Movie about redemption and forgiveness, and the consequences of the Artist’s life. Questions of family, or truth, of authenticity, of self, and of letting go of the past are all themes that weave through this story. And although the Movie centers on photography, Music plays a significant role, as well.
Matt Ryder (Jason Sudeikis) is a Record Exec on the almost-outs. His character, at the start, reminds me a bit of Dan (Mark Ruffalo) in one of my Favorite Films, Begin Again. They are both about to lose their jobs, they both love Music and have an ear for it, and they are both lost internally due to break-ups, and a past that has a hard hold on them. Matt seems to even teeter on that drinking problem that Dan personifies, it just never takes center stage in Kodachrome.
The Music business is not the only way Music plays a part in the Film, though. Mark’s record collection in his Aunt and Uncle’s home (Mark’s home since his Mother died when he was an adolescent) sparks both memories that Mark shared with his father, as well as sparks a conversation, and connection, between Mark, and his father’s nurse, Zooey (Elizabeth Olsen).
A connection that starts to grow as the Movie, and the road, unfolds.
My one complaint lies with the character of Zooey. I wish they’d developed her as an individual more, instead of just affixing damage to her, and hinting at issues. Too much of the time she felt like a plot device to both Matt, and his father, and it didn’t have to be that way. Elizabeth Olsen is a fantastic actor (one of my favorites), and quite capable of nuance and complexity of character. And, it was there. You can see it. I just wanted it unpacked more.
Zooey is important to everyone in this story. I wish they’d let her be important to her, too.
Ben and Matt’s relationship is the real core of Kodachrome. There are moments when I hate Ben as much as Matt does for the obvious abandonment and neglect he gifted Matt as his father. Other times I feel for Ben deeply and want him to find redemption, and want Matt to forgive him. Ben and Matt’s story tugged on me because of my own abandonment issues with my absent father. I couldn’t help but root for them to heal before it was too late.
Overall, I really enjoyed Kodachrome. I loved the road trip setting, the subtext of art and the artist’s life, and the story of a child and estranged parent having a chance at a connection, and redemption. I loved the way Music was used and enjoyed the Soundtrack, both Agatha Kaspar’s Score and Songs by Pearl Jam, Galaxie 500, The Indians, Graham Nash, and others.
Oh, and Live…
I’d definitely recommend this one. It is streaming right now on Netflix, and if you live in the Los Angeles area, its playing at the Landmark Theater, at the Westside Pavilion.