Interstate 60

14 Aug

Director: Bob Gale (2002).

This film seems to have existed in relative obscurity which is strange considering it’s cast- a veritable who’s who of the film industry’s big players, but not so strange considering its selling point and self categorisation as a ‘metaphysical comedy/drama road movie’.

I had no idea such a genre even existed.

The plot revolves around Neal Oliver (James Marsden), a young artist who, fed up with his father’s relentless life-controlling, embarks upon a surreal journey down an interstate that doesn’t appear on any map after meeting the mysterious O.W (One Wish) Grant and wishing ‘for answers’. Played by a ginger and uncharacteristically clean shaven Gary Oldman, O.W Grant represents the under appreciated, and unknown,  American mythological wish granting character so often missing from folk lore. Think leprechaun smoking a monkey head pipe with a red bow tie. Oldman, not the monkey that is…

So Neal goes on a magical journey down this uncharted interstate in the red BMW bought for him by his father, guided by the lore of a Magic 8 Ball and encountering a host of challenges in the form of a girl who is on the hunt for the perfect fuck, a terminally ill advertiser who says what he means and means what he says and also has a penchant for dynamite supported life lessons, a town where everyone is addicted to a euphoric goverment controlled drug, and Morlaw- a town populated entirely by lawyers determined to keep themselves in business by perpetually sueing one another.

Neal’s journey is punctuated and inspired by his quest to find a mysterious girl (Amy Smart) who has occupied his dreams and his artists mind and now has started appearing on billboards only he can see. Turns out she also made a wish with O.W Grant to meet Mr Right. What a coincidence- enter James Marsden.

It is a long film with a running time of 1hr 51mins and while there is clearly a plot with the twists and turns one has come to expect from a bildungsroman inspired road movie, let alone a metaphysical one, my main problem was with the sheer multitude of characters. Don’t get me wrong, as aforementioned one of the main attractions and surprises to the film is its cast. For such a relatively unknown film, it gathers Michael J Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Gary Oldman, Chris Cooper, James Marsden, Kurt Russell and even Ann-Margaret Olsson on one screen which is a fine acheivement for any production in my eyes. Each character’s screen time is entertaining and the clean sectioning of the script as Neal visits the various towns on Interstate 60 certainly adds to the Odyssean feel of many metaphysical films. With any other director, this type of film would be too disjointed and overwhelmed but in the hands of Bob Gale of Back to the Future fame, it somehow works.  Yes, there is clearly a reason Interstate 60 never hit the big time but it serves its purpose as a light hearted while suprisingly thought provoking film.

Just like the eponymous Interstate that does not exist on any maps, you have to find this film for yourself and disregard any cliches and extraneous story arcs you don’t care for and enjoy it for what it is- an original take on the traditional road movie through the eyes of one of the most loved comedy/science fiction writers around. Even if it is just to enjoy the wonderful Christopher Lloyd. Or to see Gary Oldman without a moustache.


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