Last Updated on July 30, 2021
PLOT: A down-and-out rock promoter (Jason Sudeikis), on the verge of losing his job, is forced to reconnect with his dying photographer father (Ed Harris), and go with him and his nurse (Elizabeth Olsen) on a road trip to the last processor of Kodachrome film in the world.
REVIEW: KODACHROME is one of the year’s biggest surprises. I’ve been pretty critical of Netflix original films in the past, specifically the ones they produce in-house. While this is a TIFF pick-up, it’s a major step in the right direction for the company, being a nice little indie drama that’s a whole lot better than it should have been. The fact is, the indie cross-country road trip drama is a genre that’s played out, as is the “young man visiting his estranged family” genre. This one marries both of those things, but who knew the end result would be so good?
Written by Jonathan Tropper (THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU, and the late, great “Banshee”), and directed by Canadian Mark Raso, what makes KODACHROME work so well is the three-dimensionality of the characters. None of them is your typical indie hero. They have plenty of flaws that can’t be ignored, and that makes this feel more true to life than your typical film. Jason Sudeikis has one of his best roles ever as a prickish music exec, who’s so resistant to seeing his dying dad that he has to be blackmailed into it by the promise of a meet-and-greet with a band he’s desperate to sign. Sudeikis never does that too earnest thing I’ve always criticized him for in his other straight-work, nor do they try to make him Chevy Chase-lite, something that bugged me about some of the comedies he’s been in (although he can be great when let off the leash – he was a memorable highlight in the otherwise awful MASTERMINDS).
This is a logical follow-up for him to COLOSSAL, and bodes well for a long career as a leading man. He’s often an asshole here, but you forgive him because he conveys that his character is essentially a decent guy. Ed Harris, however, has the toughest part as the ornery dad. Most movies would have made him cantankerous but lovable. Not so here. He doesn’t have a lovable bone in his body. From his introduction, he’s an absolute prick to everyone around him, even throwing a grenade into his brother’s marriage when he gets jealous of his son’s affection. His ego needs to be constantly fed, and him being terminally ill doesn’t round off his sharp edges in the least.
What’s great is that the movie never tries to force a reconciliation or love between father and son. Rather, the goal is just them coming to some kind of peace with each other so that can both move on. They don’t particularly like each other, because Harris never forces any sense of likability down our throats, but as an audience we surprisingly hope that the two will be able to put their demons to bed even momentarily. That’s a nifty trick, and it wouldn’t have worked without two such great performances.
Similarly, Elizabeth Olsen has a better-than-average part for the type of film. At first, I thought she was going to be another idealized love interest, but she has her own rough edges, with them giving her a blown-up first marriage for some character. She’s not perfect, and that makes her a more believable foil. Even the inevitable romance with Sudeikis isn’t rushed. It’s handled predictably, but well.
KODACHROME definitely ranks with BEASTS OF NO NATION, THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES, OKJA, I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THE WORLD ANYMORE and MUDBOUND as far as their exclusives go, and it’s gonna make a lot of subscribers happy if they see it in their queue and give it a chance. Heck – you’ll even learn a bit about photography and the lost art of Kodachrome developing to boot. It’s actually one of the better films to come out so far this year, and well-worth your time.