|© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
Front to back : Will Oldham as
Kurt and Daniel London as Mark
in Old Joy, Kelly Reichardt,
USA, 2006; 76 min.
Adapted from a
short story by Jonathan
Raymond, Old Joy centers
on the reunion between friends from the Pacific Northwest. Mark (Daniel
London) is married and facing fatherhood. Kurt (Will Oldham) is a
something of a free spirit. They live near one another but have fallen out
of touch -- as friends often do. When Kurt telephones and extends an
invitation for a camping trip, Mark reluctantly agrees to go.
This sets in motion the main "action" of the film. Part of the problem
for me was that I felt the screenplay, credited to both Raymond and
director Kelly Reichardt, was not as developed as it could have been.
I know that many of my colleagues have adored this movie and have
heaped praise on it, but I fail to see why. To my mind, there was a lot
of wasted time -- repetitive shots of scenery from a moving car that
felt more like padding than "atmosphere," as if the movie makers had
to create a feature length for a project that just as easily and perhaps
more effectively could have been a short film.
What I perhaps most object to about the film is that there is no
catharsis for the audience or the characters. Mark and Kurt reunite,
drive around, get lost, camp out, have breakfast and locate a hot springs.
The men bathe, talk a bit and then return to the car and drive home.
I gather that what I'm missing is some great meditation on
friendship and male bonding. But as with SIDEWAYS (which I loathed),
I must have missed something. For me, OLD JOY held a great deal of
potential that went unrealized. It's a mood piece that didn't gel. I
cannot fault the actors who each do yeoman work, but neither of the
characters is particularly likable and I was left cold by the entire