Saturday 19 May 2018

Film Review: Kodachrome

An absentee father and his quarrelsome son embark on one final trip together. Buckle up for some feels, man. 

Jason Sudeikis plays Matt, a struggling record label producer and son of Ben (Ed Harris), a revered photographer with a fondness for the titular film format popularised by Kodak during the 20th century. When Ben learns he has liver cancer and doesn’t have long to live, he requests that Matt join him and his nurse Zooey (Elizabeth Olsen) on a road trip to the last photo lab in America that still develops old discontinued Kodachrome film. 

At first, Kodachrome offers a familiar tale of a family divided; an estranged, bitter father and a sulky wayward son, forced to reconcile during a road trip of extraordinary circumstances. It’s a tried and tested formula that the film rarely deviates from. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, as the old adage goes. It’s hard to criticise Kodachrome for its rote subject matter when all of its moving pieces slot together so well. The unsurprising nature of the screenplay is soon forgotten when screenwriter Jonathan Tropper and director Mark Raso start to peel back the layers of this dysfunctional trio of damaged people. 

While all three of the lead actors are great, it’s Sudeikis who shines brightest. After proving he can handle meatier roles in Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal last year, Sudeikis continues to demonstrate a proclivity for intimate, independent drama. He shares great chemistry with Olsen (who also excels without the whizz-bang CGI theatrics of Scarlet Witch) and a palpable sense of history and tension with Harris, who is perfectly cast as the aging windbag determined to give everyone his two cents before he shuffles off his mortal coil. In short, all three elevate the somewhat trite material and bestow it with a sense of humour, heart and sincerity, with Sudeikis in particular delivering some of his best work to date. 

The film, shot of 35mm film in honour of its subject matter, looks gorgeous, with a slight nostalgic tilt to the cinematography. This pairs nicely with the film’s major themes; holding onto the past, losing sight of the present and being fearful of opening up to others. The poignancy that comes with both Matt and Ben having pursued careers in fading industries – physical music and film photography –reflects their inability to let go of long-held regrets. 

At one point in the movie, Harris quips something akin to “no art ever worth a damn was created out of happiness”. It’s a snide summation of his character and Kodachrome as a whole; the end is beautiful, moving and memorable, so even if it’s a little light on laughs, Raso’s film will be sure to offer food for thought. 

The Verdict: 7.5/10

While it’s probably similar to something you seen before, it’s the execution that makes Kodachrome worth your time. A polished script, great performances, an emotional story and a half-decent soundtrack – you could do a lot worse.

Kodachrome is in cinemas across Australia from June 7.

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