Image Entertainment // 2008 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Ben Saylor (Retired) // August 5th, 2010
Life without a road map...
Cash-strapped Grace (Eva Amurri, Californication) doesn't idea how she's going to afford college; her father killed himself 6 years prior to the start of the film, and her mother Rhonda (Susan Sarandon, The Lovely Bones) not only has no money to give Grace but has also ruined her daughter's credit and with it, any chance of getting student loans.
Enter Dorian Spitz (Anton Yelchin, Alpha Dog), the rebellious adopted son of a well-to-do family. After his latest act of defiance, he is sent to live with a strict uncle, who gets him a job at the same local water park where Grace works. Learning of her financial needs, Dorian proposes a business partnership. The product: marijuana. Initially annoyed by the hyperactive Dorian, Grace finds herself enjoying his company more and more, a situation complicated by the hunky Ben (Justin Chatwin, Dragonball: Evolution).
Spoilers to follow
I'm not sure this spoiler warning was really necessary, as you don't need the road map referenced in Charge (which is also the film's tagline) to see where Middle of Nowhere is going. Michelle Morgan's screenplay is cut from the same cloth of countless coming-of-age movies, although to me, the film it most resembles is Pretty in Pink. Both films have poor teenage girls for protagonists (although Grace is a high school graduate) who have a platonic relationship with a wacky, attention-starved boy who pines for said girl. Both girls have essentially good-natured single parents who nonetheless fail to come through for their families. Both girls fall for a dreamy rich guy who seems to be absolutely perfect -- key word "seems."
The key difference between the two films is the pot-selling angle, in which neither Morgan nor director John Stockwell (Turistas) seems to be much interested. Beyond a speech by Dorian about the evils of marijuana's illegal status in the U.S., the subject isn't really discussed. It's too bad, because although selling weed in the suburbs is nothing new (TV's Weeds), it would have been interesting if the film had explored the idea and implications of someone selling illegal drugs to get into college.
To their credit, Morgan and Stockwell try to keep things interesting by making Grace's sister Taylor (Willa Holland) a significant supporting character. As a get-rich-quick scheme, Rhonda is trying to turn Taylor into a model, which she resists. As Stockwell discusses on the supplements, Taylor, Grace, Dorian, and Ben form a love quadrangle of sorts, but none of them is completely right for the other, and to the film's credit, there are no forced pairings by the end of the story. In fact, the film's open-ended conclusion is probably the most unconventional and surprising part of it.
Fortunately, a talented group has been assembled for Middle of Nowhere. Eva Amurri carefully modulates Grace's impatience and frustration with her situation and the people around her in a way that makes her sympathetic and believable. Yelchin, coming off a big 2009 that saw the release of Star Trek (2009) and Terminator Salvation, is appropriately manic yet earnest as Dorian. Willa Holland does well with her role, and Susan Sarandon (Amurri's real-life mother) is appropriately flighty and oblivious as Grace.
Image's DVD of Middle of Nowhere provides a clean picture and sound that combines the film's dialogue and music nicely. For extras, there is an unrevealing 25-minute making-of featurette, 11 minutes of interview footage that you'll see most, if not all of if you watch the making-of, 6 minutes of deleted scenes and the film's trailer.
All in all, Middle of Nowhere isn't a terrible film but, as my colleague Judge Clark Douglas put it in his review of the Blu-ray edition, it isn't a very memorable one either. If you like these sort of Hughesian, coming-of-age stories, Middle of Nowhere might be for you.
Guilty of being a film as bland and forgettable as its title.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes