For this low-key comedy-drama, writer-director David Gordon Green harks back to the quirky charms of his 2003 gem All the Real Girls (rather than the overt silliness of Pineapple Express or The Sitter). This is an astute story about two men who are begrudgingly forced to look at the truth about themselves while isolated from the rest of society. It's a simple idea, beautifully shot and acted.
Set in 1988, the story centres on Alvin (Rudd), who hires his girlfriend's brother Lance (Hirsch) to work with him one summer repairing a rural stretch of Texas highway that was damaged by wildfires. These two guys have nothing in common, but share a tent as they move along the road and work through their private issues. Lance just wants someone to love, and is annoyed that he can't get a girl during weekend trips to town. And Alvin is so devoted to his girlfriend that her break-up letter comes as a deep shock. So now there's nothing really holding these two guys together aside from their pathetic loneliness.
Both Rudd and Hirsch give offhanded, natural performances that play up the comical clashes between them while hinting at much darker issues gurgling beneath the surface. Neither is very good at striking up a conversation, and their awkward interaction is both hilarious and realistically messy. But they don't have many other people to talk to. Although there's a trucker (LeGault) who provides a super-strong homemade hooch, and they have a haunting encounter with a woman (Payne) who lost everything in the fire.
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Alvin is a pretty serious highway worker who's on a long summer job to repaint the road lines on a country highway after wildfire burnt them out. He is accompanied by his girlfriend's peculiar and very unworldly brother Lance, who he finds difficult and immensely frustrating to work with and who he doesn't believe is intellectually capable of doing the job. As the weekend approaches, Alvin decides he wants some quiet time to enjoy the scenery, though with the atmosphere between him and Lance growing steadily sourer, it proves more difficult by the day. After a few impolite tiffs and aggressive exchanges, they start to nurse an unlikely friendship as their camping trip away from the city ignites a brotherly bond between them.
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All that was dead the moment Bill Murray threw the candy bar in the pool in Caddyshack. Critics hated Caddyshack, and called Saturday Night Live skits "mean-spirited," but for everyone else, it was finally OK to be crude, clever, offensive -- and funny. Subsequent films like Stripes, often featuring one or more cast members from SNL (Murray, et al.) or Second City TV (Harold Ramis, John Candy), set the mold. The formula hasn't needed much tweaking since then, either; the successful comedies of recent years (There's Something About Mary, American Pie, etc.) owe everything to them.
Continue reading: Stripes Review
'Wilson', starring both Dern and Harrelson, is released in U.S. cinemas on March 24th.
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