Buena Vista // 2007 // 257 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Katie Herrell (Retired) // December 5th, 2007
"Sometimes you've got to look back to see where you're going."
"What goes on?," the frequently asked question amongst the aging high schoolers of October Road: The Complete First Season, just might become the next catch-phrase. In a TV atmosphere slowly leaking new material, the second season show October Road might get its big break. And it is worthy of the opportunity.
Nick Garrett (Brian Greenberg) returns to his hometown, Knight's Ridge, after a 10-year absence in which he writes a best-seller using his high school homies for fodder. The re-entry into polite society first goes awry when he runs into his high-school sweetheart Hannah (Laura Prepon) and her 10-year-old son. The drama continues as he one-by-one faces his former best friends and tries to build a new life in Knight's Ridge.
As television shows become more and more outlandish (Pushing Daisies) and more and more falsely realistic (A Shot at Love), it is refreshing to watch a digestible show about small-town living and all its quirks. Sure these "quirks" might be storyline friendly -- a shut in named Physical Phil who hasn't left his house in years, and a best-selling novelist (both under the age of 30, we presume), to name two. But it's these made-for-TV elements which prevent October Road from becoming too dull, too real real life.
Fictional Knight's Ridge, surprisingly shot in Atlanta I learned in the very well done Special Features, is a nostalgic New England town with vivid fall foliage and an open-door policy even at the young single mother's house (who is conveniently dating a part-time single father of twins). Knight's Ridge is divided by the show's namesake, October Road. On one half of the road sits the town's university, affectionally or rather derogatorily called "The Doof." The other side of O Road is for the locals, the townies. Crossing O Road is a profound statement, a moral and character-defining move.
When Nick crossed that line for a six-week backpacking trip through Europe and then for a 10-year stint in NYC where he wrote the aforementioned best seller, he broke a lot of hearts, and, as far as the locals are concerned, may have sullied his character beyond repair. October Road is about Nick's attempt to re-enter his old life, including his old relationship with Hannah. The result is, at times, a cheesy but mostly endearing tale of growing up and lessons learned. It is an idyllically shot and wonderfully cast tale about "going home."
The unique-to-television aspect of October Road is that Nick's hometown posse consists of rather uneducated, unattractive people. They aren't ugly and they aren't dumb, but they're modest in both ambition and appearance.
While Bryan and Laura are recognizable actors -- but name one show that Bryan's been in and something other than That '70s Show for Laura -- the rest of the ensemble cast are lesser-known, with the exception of Nick's dad (Tom Berenger). Since the film was shot on location, the cast members spent a lot of time together during film and developed a camaraderie which is reflected on screen. As the Special Feature, "October Road: The Journey Begins" mentions, these characters are supposed to be life-long friends; they didn't just meet at work or in college, they've known each other their entire life. Such longevity is a difficult relationship to fake, but this cast pulls it off impeccably.
Nick and Hannah are the prom king and queen of this show, but they carry some heavy emotional baggage. Their missteps are surrounded by secrets untold (mainly who is the father of Hannah's son Sam), backstabbing, affairs, new loves, business opportunities, and family issues. It is enough to keep the plot interesting, but there are plenty of light-hearted air guitar jams to keep the show from imploding itself.
The show's cast is predominantly male, but this isn't a guy's show by any stretch of the imagination. October Road is a sensitive look at the loyalties of youth and how those loyalties are, or are not, transformed into adult relationships -- punctuated by a rocking soundtrack.
The cheese factor is there. Nick and his buddy Eddie plan to open "Best Friends Windows," something they've been plotting since they were 10, as the name reflects. There's also the implausibility of a small-town boy abandoning his hometown for 10 years and not learning that his serious high school girlfriend has a kid until he runs into them; the odds of the same small-town boy writing a best-selling novel in his early 20s are miniscule at best; and there's a couple cliched characters -- the football star who never moves past the glory days; the loyal, goofy kid brother; the stalwart, emotionally adrift father.
Cheese aside, October Road fills a television void for me that was left by the end of Gilmore Girls, a similar (although much wittier) small-town tale of bigger ambitions and hurt feelings. I'm rooting for October Road to make it, writer's strike or not.
Review content copyright © 2007 Katie Herrell; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Top 100 Discs: #33
Studio: Buena Vista
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 257 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "October Road: The Journey Begins"
* Deleted Scenes
* Season Two Preview
* Official DVD site