Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"Rudderless": How a father deals with his son's having done a campus shooting

Rudderless”, a musical drama, is the first film to be directed by William H. Macy. 
The film juxtaposes a few issues, but the most important of these is how the parents of someone who has shot people in a mass incident carry on with their lives.  But for part of the film, the viewer only knows that the father Sam (Billy Crudup) and wife (Felicity Huffman) lost their son to a campus shooting, to the added layer of possible guilt (and suicide) is not at first present. The father has become rootless, lost his career, and lives on an Oklahoma lake  (even pees in it), and tries to organize a band, around a “substitute son” Quentin (Anton Yechlin) who, with better street smarts, is a more stable person – despite his lack of reticence about vomiting.

As the film opens, we see son Josh (Miles Heizer) performing in his dorm room, and seems to be annoyed when interrupted.  We don’t learn of any other reason for his outburst (and we need to).  Sam calls him and tries to get Josh to cut class and join him at a sports bar to celebrate Sam’s promotion at work. Sam learns about the shooting on the sports bar TV when the son doesn’t show.
The film quickly skips two years.  I think that a more interesting drama would exist if we are shown the process of Sam’s deterioration, but all of that becomes back story.
The other interesting issue of the film, so to speak, is “plagiarism”. Sam passes off some of Josh’s songs as if they were his own. These  (fourteen of them) include “Hold On, I wanna go home” and “Sing Along”, with Selena Gomez and Ben Kweller.  The film builds up to a curious climax including a boat race and accident on what may be Lake Murray, which I visited a few times when living in Dallas in the 80s. 
The official site is here (Paramount, IFC and Samuel Goldwyn),


The appeared at Sundance in 2014 and is now available on Netflix DVD.  

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