DETOURS: A Slow-Paced & Awkward Road Trip

DETOURS: A Slow-Paced & Awkward Road Trip

Sometimes when a movie starts off slow, it picks up and has a good pay off in the end which makes the slow and boring parts forgivable. That’s not the case for Detours, written by Mara Lesemann and directed by Robert McCaskill. The film stars Tara Westwood and Carlo Fiorletta with cameo appearances by Paul Sorvino and Phyllis Somerville.

Road trip movies can be a lot of fun to watch or they can be really lame. As a filmmaker and writer myself, I often get inspired by little things in life and the interesting characters we meet along the way. Road trips with your closest group of friends can lead to some of the best memories and awesome adventures. And usually when we see road trip movies, they’re of the buddy variety, full of misadventures and slapstick humor.

The Guilt Trip, with Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand paired up as a mother-son duo on the road, was alright. The two might not have been the best pairing for on-screen chemistry but Rogen‘s comedic sense and Streisand‘s classic demeanor pulled it off well enough to make it a Hollywood blockbuster that brought in US$41.9 million at the box office. Detours feels like a gender-swap dime-store knockoff attempt at the same schtick that just didn’t hold up.

Family Adventure and Action, Or Lack Thereof

The storyline sounds like one with promise; Jennifer (Westwood) moves from NY to FL, chasing her life long career dreams after her marriage ends. It turns out her now estranged husband wants some of her mom’s ashes in exchange for giving Jennifer her mom’s cookie recipe. Jennifer’s mother was the well known author, Grace Giraldi (Kim Director), but she wasn’t as close with her mother as her husband was. She seems to dismiss this as a gripe as it quickly fades from the storyline. As one last ode to her family of origin, Jennifer convinces her newly widowed father, Dan (Fiorletta) to tag along for the ride with the inspiration to scatter Grace’s ashes in Florida’s ocean, together.

By the sounds of it, one might expect a road trip adventure where something exciting, comedic, traumatic or dramatic happens. This is a great set up for a dirty family secret to be revealed, or to pick up a crazy hitchhiker which leads to some insane adventure. Any number of scenarios can unfold and during the entire movie – and that’s what I was waiting for – for something interesting to happen. It moved at a very slow pace and struggled to hold my interest. I kept waiting for something in this film to grab me but then the end credits started to roll.

DETOURS: A Slow-Paced & Awkward Road Trip
source: About Us Productions

The acting was disappointing at best even with some notable and talented actors at play here. Detours displayed weak performances from a strong cast, and I don’t know if the editor didn’t choose the best shots to go with or if it’s the director and/or actors who were off their game, but the whole overall film felt inauthentic. The dialogue was not well-written and a lot of it was pointless banter that didn’t progress the story along in any way. Much of the delivery felt forced and unnatural.

Our two main actors did not have chemistry that worked into a believable relationship. There were no inside jokes or expressions of comfort that one comes to expect from familial relationships. It felt more like a distanced uncle and niece than a father-daughter. I didn’t sense any closeness or bonding between them, which impacted the performances. They both acknowledge needing to have a date or meet someone and get laid, which is a quest they both accomplish and creates slight tension when the daughter overreacts to her dad’s one night stand.

The Lemonade Stand, The Rapper and the Ashes

The two college-age characters that our father and daughter duo encounter felt out of place. First there’s the obnoxious aspiring accountant, Brian (Peter Graham) with a lemonade stand and then we meet the aspiring Indian rapper, Rajiv (Debargo Sanyal) who runs his parents motel. Both of these scenes could have been cut from Detours and it wouldn’t have taken away from the film at all; in fact it might have made it better – as they felt spliced in just to add time or  maybe even a poor attempt at comedic relief.

DETOURS: A Slow-Paced & Awkward Road Trip
source: About Us Productions

When they finally get to Florida and get out on the boat to scatter mom’s ashes (this is the peak of the film), the moment they’ve been building up to and because I lost my dad and did bury his ashes at sea (in Florida, too!), this scene should have triggered me, emotionally. This is the only point in the entire film that either character seemed to express any genuine emotion over their dearly departed.

Through out the film, it  felt like the deceased was just another accessory item which they occasionally reflected upon with memories. Had the performances been done well, this scene would have had me in tears because I’m a sentimental sap like that, but I felt nothing other than I didn’t believe these characters felt the way I was expected to believe they did.

This could have in part been due to the music choice selected for this scene though. Music is an essential element in film that is responsible for painting the emotional landscape for our senses. The music in this particular scene is that which you’d expect in a casual or romantic dinner scene, not a funeral or sad one.

Technical Mediocrity

There was nothing remarkable about the cinematography; no unique, interesting or creative shots or angles. But it wasn’t awful, it was just mediocre. Some shots could have used better fine tuning in audio as there’s an inconsistent light tone that hums through Detours.  Additionally, there was nothing particularly noteworthy about the sets.

This is a film that was shot on location, wherever the location happened to be during the road-trip; usually the car, motels/hotels or public establishment like store, bar or place to eat. But when it came to the technical side of Detours, I think where it suffered most is that the score didn’t fit the scenes it was put to most of the time.

DETOURS: A Slow-Paced & Awkward Road Trip
source: About Us Productions

The on-screen chemistry was lacking. The delivery of Dan’s lines were mostly deadpan. The emotional scenes didn’t come off as authentic. One or two of these things in a movie, any movie, can be easily overlooked and forgiven but when they all add up in one, it can be distracting enough to take away from the whole film overall.

End Of the Road

It ends with the dad in the back of what we can only presume is a taxi cab or some sort of ride share. He picks up the phone to call his daughter’s best friend, where they share a short conversation full of shoe-horned in exposition. When he hangs up from this awkward phone call, the driver turns around to tell him about how many divorced and widowed women live in the building they’re passing by, to which the dad smirks, leaving us with the distinct impression that he’s now getting the idea to move in there so he can be a player.

With an ending like that, I think it’s only fair to say that a better name for this movie would have been “How Mr. Rogers Got His Groove Back.” The most entertaining part of this film was the bloopers that role during the end credits.

What’s your favorite road trip moment that you’ve had with friends or family? 

Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.
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Director/Writer/Producer at Starseed Pictures and host of the Miss Vision podcast, Jacqui Blue is a Los Angeles based artist and filmmaker with a background in writing and theater. www.jacquiblue.net