Films with excessive sentimentality, contrived narrative, and shallow acting are often labelled melodramatic, a term usually reserved for women’s film Such descriptors, however, are equally relevant to men’s films and Kodachrome (2018)is a case in point.
It’s a simple plot: a dying father wants his estranged son to take him across America to the last lab that can develop a few long-lost rolls of Kodachrome film. The son is Matt Ryder (Jason Sudeikis), a music recording executive whose career is on the brink. He is angered by the sudden appearance of his father’s carer, Zooey Kern (Elizabeth Olsen) who acts as his messenger. His dad Ben (Ed Harris) is an old school alpha-male, a famous photographer, and chronically obnoxious. Matt is bribed into the trip and the journey is predictably unpleasant for all three.
Despite its potential as an interesting road trip or a late-life coming of age story, the film struggles on several levels. To even care about the travelling threesome, we need to like or have empathy with the characters but there is nothing that encourages this. Matt is a shallow self-interested wheeler-dealer; Ben is callously uncaring; and Zooey is unconvincing in her commitment to either man.
One scene stands out both for its lame attempt to find humour where there is none. The three are hurtling along in a convertible under GPS voice guidance, when Ben gets nostalgic for old-fashion maps. After asking for Matt’s phone, he throws it out of the car and grins; so does Zooey, while Matt looks piqued. And this is a highlight scene worth including in the trailer!
Some viewers may be drawn to Kodachrome out of interest in the history of photography and the once-iconic Kodak brand. A photographer and a music producer on a road trip could have dwelled on the passing of an era and the onset of the digital age where few images are printed or albums built. But there is little serious content in this predictable over-contrived story of guilt, redemption, and a finger-wagging reminder that our lives mean nothing if we do not leave behind loving memories in those who follow.
Some filmmakers seem to believe that if human failings can be exaggerated sufficiently the film turns into comedy. This sometimes works, but not here; nor does the film work as drama. Kodachrome falls somewhere between several genres into a space that feels like male melodrama.
Director: Mark Raso
Stars: Jason Sudeikis, Ed Harris, Elizabeth Olsen