New Video // 2009 // 103 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // July 5th, 2010
When life gives you a lemon, drive it cross-country.
One of the films that earned a fair amount of attention at this year's Sundance Film Festival was Linas Phillips' road movie Bass Ackwards, a smart little drama that follows a man as he travels cross-country in a tiny bus. The film definitely deserves all the praise it received, because when it comes to the road movie genre, this one takes quite a refreshing direction.
Phillips not only wrote and helmed Bass Ackwards, but he also decided to play the movie's lead character. After being thrown out of his friend's apartment and being dumped by his lover, Linas decides to leave Seattle behind and head east to start over in New York. His only companion on the road is a small 1976 VW bus. Together, the two embark on a long journey full of encounters with all kinds of eccentric characters.
Bass Ackwards is unlike any road movie you've seen lately. It doesn't follow the traditional formula of the genre, and it certainly isn't as predictable as one might expect. On the contrary, this beautiful little film is full of surprises, and just as much as Linas has no idea what his trip has in store for him, we as the viewers quickly realize that anything can happen to this guy and his bus. In fact, the compelling feeling of curiosity the movie provokes throughout is just one of the positive factors that make this such a special gem.
Even though this is a fiction film, Phillips didn't generate a full script before he started shooting. He wanted to give his movie a documentary feel. In order to achieve this, he kept the size of his crew to a minimum and decided to improvise a large chunk of the film's segments. The concept worked out beautifully, because Bass Ackwards boasts both a very realistic atmosphere and simplistic story line boosted by the sincerity of its engaging main characters.
Truth be told, Linas is a guy I am sure many viewers will easily be able to identify with in one way or another. He may at first come across as a loner hitting the road to leave one life behind and start a new one somewhere else, but as we get to see him encounter and befriend a handful of random characters in the most random places, Linas slowly rediscovers the joy and importance of being able to establish and share a connection with another human being. Luckily enough, Phillips possesses all the necessary skills to create heartfelt, lifelike dialogue and direct himself in a role he completely masters.
Besides the great acting and flawless direction, Bass Ackwards also benefits from a fantastic cinematography, which helps set the film's pace and makes it all highly enjoyable to watch. Sean Porter was the guy behind the camera, and he delivered an array of beautiful shots of Linas driving his little bus across the United States. As repetitive as some of these sequences may be, each one has a different look and feel to it, and I simply couldn't get tired of them. The driving basically acts as a separate character adding more texture to the global feel of the movie, and so does Linas' hilarious bus, which has its ups and downs as well.
Bass Ackwards was produced on a small budget, but Porter got to shoot the film on the RED, which gives the film its wonderful look. The DVD does the movie justice in terms of the 1.85:1 presentation, which boasts a clean, sharp picture quality. Select shots appear a little dark and could have been lit up a bit, but other than that, I can only praise both the visual and audio transfers. For an indie flick shot by a tiny crew, this thing just looks and sounds great.
The bonus section packs some interesting features as well. Besides a bunch of deleted scenes and bloopers, you'll also find a 16-minute behind-the-scenes look that covers everything from how Phillips came up with the idea to the film all the way to how they shot it. It's definitely a very informative piece if you want to know how they pulled it off with a minuscule budget. Also worth checking out is the inspiring audio commentary with Phillips, Porter, and actress Davie-Blue, who take you through the movie and pretty much cover everything there is to know about Bass Ackwards.
Bass Ackwards is an independent drama I can only recommend. It's not your typical road movie, but it deals with issues very familiar to most of us. It's a simple film without tons of dialogue or big twists, but it leaves a big impact on those willing to go along for the ride, I can guarantee it as one of the better movies I've seen this year.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Video
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes