J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Big Significant Things: Road Angst

Craig Harrison is looking for enlightenment on the Stuckey’s circuit, hoping to hash out his man-child hang-ups one pecan roll at a time. No, it is not likely to work. His retreat from reality might even make matters worse. Harrison finds himself a long way down Holiday Road in Bryan Reisberg’s Big Significant Things (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

In about a week, give or take, Harrison will marry his longstanding girlfriend. She is currently house-hunting on their behalf in San Francisco, whereas he is taking a driving tour of the eccentric roadside attractions of the Gulf Coast, taking in wonders like the world’s biggest cedar bucket. What does she think of this division of labor? Actually, she believes Harrison is still on a fact-finding trip with his business colleagues, but she is still not thrilled with the arrangement.

So what’s wrong with Craig Harrison (not the British sniper or the New Zealander speculative novelist)? Aside from his galloping immaturity, it is hard to say. It is probably safe to assume he is feeling pressure from all the wedding business and the cold hard financial realities of house hunting, but the film never really gets at what his deal is.

Frankly, a little bit of him moping in motel rooms goes a long way. However, BST gets a much needed energy boost from Finnish actress Krista Kosonen, playing Ella, an unlikely Finnish expat. She exudes an unconventional sultriness and sings a distinctive, haltingly hushed singer-songwriter tune at an open mic night. The way she captures Ella’s insecurities in this scene is quite sensitively rendered and surprisingly compelling.

Indeed, there are several exquisitely crafted moments, but most of the film feels like slow, dry connective tissue. As Harrison, Harry Lloyd does his best to charm his way past the character’s inherent self-indulgent jerkiness, but it is a laborious task. However, Kosonen exhibits tons of breakout potential with her quiet but intense work as Ella. Sylvia Grace Crim also helps liven up the overly dour proceedings as Ella’s hard-partying crony.

No matter how you parse it, spending a lot of time with Craig Harrison in a car is not a joyous proposition. Still, the Route 66-ish nostalgia of his road trip is sort of appealing. It is neither big nor significant, but at least BST is a thing. It features some promising performances, but the film itself is hardly essential. It opens today (7/24) in New York, at the Cinema Village.