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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.

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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.