Few indie genres boast a larger risk-reward ratio than the road movie, with the inherent narrative momentum serving as a launchpad for a wide variety of intriguing takes, as well as the potential for a whole lot of tedium in the wrong hands. Director/writer/star Maximón Monihan’s Sea to Shining Sea counts as one of the good ones, fortunately, with its barely there story providing ample room for a slew of entertaining serio-comic digressions. Capitalizing mightily on the chemistry between two old friends, it finds an engagingly wobbly back and forth rhythm early on, and then just keeps on trucking.
The thinly fictionalized plot finds Seattle native Monihan reuniting with his old skateboard buddy Robert Boerleider, a Dutch-Surinamese wiseass from Amsterdam with a fierce yearning to see the real America. After borrowing an old Subaru in San Francisco, they embark on a not-that-well-planned-at-all odyssey to New York. The amiable shit-talking quickly piles high, along with discussions involving the toxic nature of hotel room comforters, the potentially world-uniting power of Old Navy, and the nutritional value of alien meat. (There’s also some goofy stuff.)
Monihan, whose previous film The Voice of the Voiceless was a searing, near-silent drama, keeps even the bad stretches of road entertaining here, with a well-balanced mix of expected landmarks and random stops, including a brief and memorably WTF moment at a spooky farmhouse. His best decision, though, proves to be largely serving as straight man to Boerleider, a born camera magnet whose muttered asides give Sea to Shining Sea its considerable comedic juice. (His aura of disbelief while walking around Vegas at night could power an entire mini-series.) Their relationship makes sitting in the theater while watching people sitting in a car an unexpectedly fulfilling experience. All that’s missing is a game of Punch Bug, really.
Sea to Shining Sea opens this Wednesday at the Northwest Film Forum. See Movie Times for information. The director, Maximón Monihan, will be in attendance.