The Long Dumb Road (co-written and directed by Hannah Fidell) tracks two absurdly different men on a journey across the country full of twists, dry comedy, and a strikingly odd sense of friendship. (DLH: 3/5)
Review by FF2 Intern Dayna Hagewood
The film begins with Nat (Tony Revolori) leaving his suburban parents to drive to Los Angeles for his first year of art school. It is clear from the beginning that Nat is the product of a cushy lifestyle, and heads off in an old minivan with his Pentax camera, set on capturing “Real America” (in stark contrast to the life that he used to live).
Of course, his van breaks down somewhere in West Texas, so he hikes to the nearest gas station, where he is shocked to find Richard (Jason Mantzoukas) engaged in a verbal battle with the boss of the mechanic shop. Richard immediately grabs onto Nat and offers to fix his van “for free” in a fit of comedic rage. After the van starts humming again, Nat hesitantly agrees to drive Richard forty-five minutes to the nearest bus station. What neither of them realizes is that the bus station is no longer operative, and bit-by-bit Richard will remain with Nat for much of his journey to LA.
What ultimately saves The Long Dumb Road from the pitfalls of road movie cliches and the relatively stock set-up is the rich and comical dialogue. Nat and Richard develop a natural rapport that highlights both of their strengths and weaknesses. Nat is underexposed to real life and is hesitant in his decisions whereas Richard is blunt, drunk, and earnest. The relationship between the two that develops meets somewhere in the middle through a series of funny and painfully awkward hardships.
Whether they find themselves engaged in a bar fight, dumped by two girls they spent the night with at their hotel, or wrapped up in a dangerous scheme, Richard and Nat seem to balance each other out in every situation and keep going.
And, despite some of the cringey dialogue, writers Hannah Fidell and Carson Mell seem to insert short bursts of social commentary that interrupt the stupidity and often brute mentalities of the characters. Richard teaches Nat to be polite at the drive-thru window, and Nat anchors Richard in reality when he drifts a bit too far out. The two characters come together through smart writing and dialogue that carries the film through its most tedious sections.
The camera work in The Long Dumb Road steps back to admire the underwhelming beauty of the middle-of-nowhere landscapes all the while forcing conversations to the forefront. Ultimately, what the film does best is portraying glimpses of humanity and connection within absurd and unlikely situations. Even when everything seems grim, Richard and Nat are able to pull each other back up and continue the trip despite all odds and difficulties.
And yet, like most road movies, the plot is simple. Will they get to their destination unscathed? What else could possibly go wrong? Will they go their separate ways? The Long Dumb Road is a great film to watch with friends if you are looking for a simple and easy laugh. It’s funny, uncomfortable, and plain in all of the classic ways, but will leave you oddly satisfied and content despite its relatively standard qualities. Nat and Richard will leave you smiling, cringing, and hoping for the best, which is all we can really ask for on the long, dumb road of life.
© Dayna Hagewood (12/27/2018) FF2 Media
Featured Photo: Richard and Nat driving in the minivan.
Top Photo: Nat and his Pentax camera.
Middle Photo: Nat and Richard on the road.
Bottom Photo: Richard and Nat watching the van off as it is towed away.
Photo Credits: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (2018)
Does The Long Dumb Road pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?
No. The majority of the film is focused on Nat and Richard, and when they meet other characters (who are often women), they are always still involved in the conversation.