A better than usual road trip styled film, first-time feature filmmaker Zoran Lisinac has crafted a breezy and entertaining film by weaving together an appealing story with a cast and crew capable of pulling the whole thing off.
Angelina Häntsch plays Nena, an optimistic and perpetually human loving young woman who has arrived in Los Angeles from Europe to see her beloved favorite band, Blonde Priest. On the flip side, Varnie (Iman Crosson) is a struggling venture capitalist from San Francisco who has just discovered that his girlfriend is pregnant. The two meet in a sort of accidental way, but isn't that how it always works? The journey that follows is in many ways a predictable one as cultural differences will cause clashes, life lessons will be learned, quirky characters will be met, andbonds will be established.
While the decision has been made to market Michael Madsen's appearance in the film, an understandable choice, it's worth noting that Madsen's appearance is more of a rather delightful cameo that works but is more of a diversion from the story than integral to it. The truth is that the diversions may be necessary, and both Madsen and Serbian actor Lazar Ristovski are great, but this film truly flies because of the performances of Häntsch and Crosson, the latter likely being more familiar to audiences because of his wild popularity on Youtube under the name of Alphacat. Check him out. He's pretty awesome.
Since its world premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival, Along the Roadside has been picking up fest awards including Best Song at the Garden State Film Festival, Best Feature at both the IFS Film Festival and in the Accolade Awards, Best Supporting Actor at IFS and others. While the road trip genre has been done to death, and frequently not that well, one has to give some kudos to Lisinac for creatively weaving the film's music, supplied by Cole Bonner, so smoothly into the film's road trip and various stops. Designed to function as a Greek chorus (seriously!), Bonner's music should have people immediately looking him up once the film's over (NOTE: Please do wait until the movie is over!).
The real discovery is Angelina Häntsch, who takes a character who seems almost destined to become irritating and turns her into a quirky yet infinitely realistic and endearing young woman. There's so much more going on in Häntsch's performance and one can only hope that we see more of her in the future.
John Honore's lensing is creative and vibrant, while Christopher Tod's production design gives the film a unique aura that seems to perfectly companion the characters and their journeys.
Along the Roadside has been picked up by indie distributor Indican Pictures and is definitely a film worth checking out for those into high quality indie motion pictures. While I might argue that Along the Roadside could have benefited from a bit of tightening up, that's a modest quibble and the film definitely serves notice that Zoran Lisinac is an up-and-coming cinematic voice and it'll be nice to see where he goes next.