Starring Jaime King, Josh Cooke, Missi Pyle, Daniel Roebuck, Silas Weir Mitchell, Rick Overton, William Russ
Directed by Jim Kouf
Expectations: Low. The trailer looked awful, but I gave it a shot.
I took a chance on this movie. I watched the trailer for it a long time ago, probably a year back, and thought it looked horrible. It was obviously shot on video and from what I remember of the trailer there were a lot of people yelling at each other. I generally would have written this movie off immediately as a Coen Bros. rip-off but when I saw it on Netflix Instant and I was in a forgiving mood, I decided to give it a go and put all of my preconceived notions aside. Surprisingly, I’m not sorry that I did.
A young child hangs out of a car window, playing with a fork. He drops said fork and where does it land? Well, dear readers, it lands in the road. Along comes a police cruiser transporting the convict Will Carson. It hits the fork in the road, flips and Will makes his escape. He hides out in a barn and notices some suspicious behavior at the house across the way. A woman drags a man’s body out of the house and struggles to put him into the trunk of a car. From here, as you can probably guess, hijinks ensue.
The filmmakers are definitely going for that dark comedy vibe of the Coen Bros., specifically Fargo with a dash of Raising Arizona. It’s only slightly successful, as the comedy isn’t all that witty or even funny for that matter. It’s not horrible, but it’s just not that funny to me. Next to the Coen Bros. this is awful, but as the Coens are making some of my favorite films, it’s unfair to continue to hold this film to those standards. For some reason though, I still found myself involved and wondering what was going to happen. There was just enough oddness in it to keep me mildly interested.
The acting is passable and seems to get better as the film moves on. The first 30 minutes or so consists of Jaime King and Josh Cooke yelling at each other in various locales, which gets old fast. I realize that conflict is the meat and potatoes of screenwriting, but c’mon. I could tell that a lot of this was written and played for laughs, and I could see someone laughing at it, but that someone wasn’t me. It ain’t all bad though, there are definitely some good jokes and situations to be had overall. I had an overwhelming feeling a few times in the film that I was watching a TV show. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but there were definite moments when all the forces collided and the feature film feeling fizzled out of the room. Most people probably won’t care or notice this, but as someone that hates virtually every scripted show from the last 10 years, this becomes a minor problem. My girlfriend said that as it dragged on, it felt like we were watching an episode marathon from the same show. Each new twist would open up and keep the film going longer than it needed to, feeling like we’d started a new episode.
For being made on video, the film is surprisingly well shot. Made on location in the beautiful state of Montana, there are lots of great vistas and shots of mountainous terrain. On the other hand, there are also some inexplicably poor framed shots. If I had a DVD of the film, I’d make a capture to better illustrate my point, but since I don’t, I will try and describe it the best I can. Imagine a shot of a country road. The road cuts through a desert, but not an arid Death Valley, cow skulls on the ground desert, more of a dusty plain with brush flowing in the wind sort of desert. In the background are the gorgeous mountains of Montana. Now imagine that the top of the shot just barely cuts off the tops of most of these mountains, and the bottom of the frame contains an imbalanced amount of road and desert, throwing the whole image off. Rule of thirds, man! C’mon! This happened maybe five or six times throughout the film and really annoyed me, while the rest of the film was very well framed. It’s like someone hit the camera right before they started rolling, they shot what they needed, and no one noticed until they were back in the editing booth when re-shoots were out of the question.
I’m probably being harsher than I need to be because I did kind of like this movie. It’s too long, dragging from the middle on, but it does some things well enough for a fan of dark comedies to maybe give this a shot. I can’t say that I recommend it, but I can’t really tell you to completely avoid it. It’s okay, but ultimately frustrating because there is potential for a good film here. Maybe a few more turns of the grindstone, honing that script to a fine polish would have helped elevate this film above its mediocrity. I read an interview with the director where he states that Hollywood isn’t making the types of movies people want to see. While I would tend to agree with him, I don’t know that he’s filled the void with A Fork in the Road, but I definitely found it more enjoyable than a ridiculous Bruckheimer movie or something in that vein.