One of Thailand's most famous directors, Baz Poonpiriya (the director behind the record-shattering heist thriller Bad Genius), has partnered with one of the gods of cinema, Wong Kar-wai (a dude you probably know), to create One for the Road, a romantic epic that aims to follow Poonpiriya's previous blockbuster success. While Wong Kar-wai's inclusion as a producer will ensure lots of justified eyeballing, I think this road movie's editor may have been asleep at the wheel.
One for the Road has far too much plot in its two-plus hour runtime, so I won't fall into the trap of trying to run down all of it. The gist: "Boss" is a bartender in NYC from Thailand. He's a literal boss and a "consummate ladies man," as the film's synopsis suggests. Boss gets a call from his old best friend, Aood, who tells him he has cancer. Aood wants to go on a trip across Thailand to reconnect with his old lovers before he dies, and he needs Boss's help. So, the two meet up with Aood's exes. One ex now runs a dance studio, another is like a boho-chic photographer, and one more ex has become a movie star (Aood apparently has magic dick). The two bros "rekindle their brotherhood," get very drunk, and the film time-jumps incessantly. The strength here is not in the plot.
The most exciting bits are the bits that feel closest to Wong Kar-wai's hand: the film's rapid montages, which possess the rare quality of being fast and luxurious. A director often shows luxury with a languid camera. Here, Poonpiriya manages to do what I love most about a Wong Kar-wai film—a hurried, dense collection of scenes that happen to be as sensual as they are quick. Experiencing this type of sequence can feel mystical. It's no small feat that One for the Road has many of these sequences, and it's funny that this bloated movie's best parts are its fast montages.
Beyond its excessive length (136 minutes), my main gripe is how on-the-nose the film is. Like when Aood dumps his father's ashes, "Father and Son" plays. Fine, sure, but there are many obvious choices like this.
While I'm griping: The soundtrack here is also bloated—Elton John, Supertramp, The Rolling Stones—but somehow, the movie's closing song doesn't come from any of these bigwigs. I couldn't pinpoint who the closing artist was, and apologies to them, I guess, but it was the most suburban, bullshit song I've ever heard. It sounded like Jack Johnson Kidz Bop. I dry-heaved. I'm sorry, but I did. How are you going to have "Dreamer" in your film but then end the entire thing with a song that sounds like it plays from a Hallmark card?
I actually think this story would have been served better if it was—and I don't mean to be contrarian here—longer, but as a mini-series. It obviously wants to be six hours long. Maybe it still can be. Just cut that last song. And give viewers a break every hour. Please.
You can watch One for the Road on-demand via Sundance starting Saturday, Jan. 30.