FOUR LANE HIGHWAYNR
New York theatre actor-director Dylan McCormick, writing and directing his debut feature, gives what could you could charitably describe as "the ol' college try." And that's not just because Four Lane Highway is about two 34-year-olds who spend their free time in college bars, impressing Comparative Lit co-eds into bed with their deep thoughts and tortured souls.
Sean Murphy (Frederick Weller), the son of a famous writer whose one published novel, Four Lane Highway, remains a cult hit, is a carpenter in a rural Maine college town. But you'd be forgiven for thinking he's a bartender there, since in flashbacks to two years earlier Sean looks and dresses exactly the same; likewise the bar. Since the movie toggles back and forth and back and forth between those periods, a sort of chronological vertigo quickly sets in, relieved only by our hero and his erudite-alcoholic best friend, Lyle (Reg Rogers), setting off on a road trip to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. There Sean plans to see The Girl That Got Away and then...well, he's not exactly sure what he hopes will happen. In one nicely self-aware bit, a distressed Sean worries that "she'll think I'm stalking her." Lyle answers jovially, "You are!"
TGTGA is Molly Dickinson (Greer Goodman), an art teacher and painter who had moved in with Sean and wanted him to be something more than a carpenter/bartender. When she discovers he had a short story published in The New Yorker a decade back, she tries to ask him why he stopped writing, cuing the easygoing Sean to inexplicably turn into a pit bull. The movie never makes Sean's behavior clear; it's something to do with his dad being an alcoholic and his mother either leaving or committing suicide. McCormick does engage your curiosity as to who broke up with whom and why exactly, but the revelation turns out not to be anything you wouldn't see on your average Friday night in West Virginia.
McCormick does shoot his Brooklyn scenes evocatively, with desolate locations that only a true New Yorker knows really exist within such a densely populated metropolis. Narratively it's another story, so to speak. Flashback fever aside, McCormack introduces us to Molly's New York roommate, bartender/actress Sasha (Elizabeth Rodriguez), who somehow has barely heard of Shakespeare and has a sleep-around problem besides, and then the filmmaker simply leaves her story unfinished, as if he'd forgotten about her. Not surprisingly, Rodriguez, who was soooo good in the later-filmed Miami Vice movie, looks lost here. The prolific Weller and Rogers, however, are talented and committed, despite their roles' shortcomings, and the latter chews up the screen just right as the self-dramatizing boozehound whose own arc ends in an interesting place. Give McCormick credit for the high-risk task of writing an essentially four-person piece in which three of his leads are self-loathing. The filmmaker gives himself a small role in one scene as Sean's brother.
Shot in Super 16mm and mastered in HD, the movie builds to an unexpectedly mature ending and then unfortunately goes on for another 15 banal and attenuated minutes.