Sunday, September 19, 2010

$5 a Day: Movie Review


The best of independent filmmaking.

"$5 a Day" is a father-son road trip movie. You may think you've seen that done way too many times before, but this plays out as if it's completely original. This is, quite simply, a smart, entertaining independent film. It also doesn't hurt that it has an all-star cast behind it. The handsome and completely endearing Alessandro Nivola is Flynn, the son, who is just trying to live a normal life. 2008 (with 2010 DVD release)

Directed by: Nigel Cole

Screenplay by: Neal H. Dobrofsky and Tippi Dobrofsky

Starring: Christopher Walken and Alessandro Nivola
Christopher Walken, still on top of his game, is Nat, the father, who schemes and lies his way into living and travelling on just 5 dollars a day.

Flynn has a job as a health inspector – a job he takes seriously, but struggles with. A lot of these restaurant owners and employers are just good, honest people trying to make a living, and if he writes them up for a small violation, he could be responsible for ruining their lives. The character of Flynn is loaded with these moral conflicts. The brilliant character writing and bringing these richly-defined characters to life like Nivola and Walken have, make $5 a day seem original despite a predictable plot.

Flynn’s past catches up with him and he’s fried from his job, so he comes home determined to save his relationship with his girlfriend Maggie (Amanda Peet), except his past has caught up with him there too and she’s already out the door.

After Flynn loses his job and Nat insists he's dying, Flynn agrees to drive his father across the country for treatment. There are plenty of hilarious cons and schemes, but also some touching honesty, along the way.

"$5 a Day" is a fantastic dramedy. It is billed as a comedy and it does have some low-key humour and many laughs. But by just calling it a comedy, that doesn't seem to give the film full credit for the brilliant character writing. There is a lot of intelligent undertones in the actions of the characters as they each mature in the journey. And the writer did that with subtlety and humour, no melodrama here.

This film was done better than I ever thought a relationship road trip movie could be done. I laughed all of the way, just enjoying the characters, and I didn't find all of the subtle lessons on relationships until after it was over. Walken and Nivola had great chemistry and completely won me over. I now expect them to play father and son in all of their future movies.
Best of 2010





Recommended:

The Joneses (2009) - A hilarious, original and inventive twist on "keeping up with the Joneses".

Blue State (2007) - The road trip genre taken to political and hilarious extremes.