Greetings again from the darkness. So this greasy, heroin-addicted slacker picks up a smartass tattoo artist while driving the Rolls Royce he has just stolen. What sounds like the beginning of a stand-up comedian’s best joke, is actually one of the earliest scenes from writer/director Jake Hoffman’s first feature film. That’s right, you have seen him many times as an actor (he played shoe mogul Steve Madden in The Wolf of Wall Street), but now Dustin’s son is a full-fledged filmmaker.
When first we meet Gus (Benedict Samuel, “The Walking Dead”), he can’t be bothered to actually paint the wall he was hired to paint … “It’s already white!” Once relieved of his duties, he heads home and white washes his apartment … not just the walls, but his TV, books and Jim Morrison poster. He claims all of his heroes are dead, and that he was unfortunately born in the wrong era … the 70’s were so much more his style. He then proceeds to try and hang himself. Of course, he fails at that too.
Next we see him car-jack the Rolls and then Ruby (Krysten Ritter) is accepting his offer of driving her to Connecticut. Having previously rebuffed his advances at a local bar, it’s obvious Ruby is intrigued by the banter and energy of Gus. The road trip brings it challenges and high points for Gus, and the two arrive at the communal retreat that features a mystic/yoga instructor (Goran Visnjic, Beginners) and a rock singer (Dov Tiefenbach), amongst others. Logan, the rock singer, and Gus softly battle for Ruby’s attention, but it’s difficult to watch as Gus drugs up and loses any sense of appeal.
It’s not long before Gus is being bailed out of jail by his well-off dad … played by Jerry Zucker, who in real life, directed Ghost and produced numerous Hollywood films. The two share an awkward car ride to the home of Gus’ bedridden mom played by Rosanna Arquette. Perhaps all of this makes more sense when you learn that Gus also takes life advice from his imaginary philosophical talking werewolf (voiced by Nick Nolte). Maybe this explains what those of us who don’t shoot heroin are really missing.
The cast is strong, and each gives it their best shot. It’s just not very entertaining or enlightening to watch some aimless dude drift through life while higher than a kite. What is clear, and has been to me for quite some time, is that at some point the right role is going to come along for Krysten Ritter, and her career will take off. She has had a solid career up to now, but next level is within her grasp. She has quite a screen presence … way more than the imaginary werewolf. Mr. Hoffman’s feel for directing offers hope for future projects, and he is certainly to be commended for his use of cutting edge music. Next time … please give us a more interesting lead character.