Kodachrome - Review
The "road trip is a metaphor for a life journey" story is nothing new. But neither are superhero movies, westerns, and romantic comedies. There are good and bad examples in all of those categories. While the "road trip/life journey" story has been done to death, every now and then a version of it comes along that makes you appreciate that sort of story. Kodachrome is one such story. It is a rare feat to have a formulaic story be so emotional, but the director, Mark Raso pulled it off quite nicely here. Continue reading to see my thoughts on the best Netflix Original film since Mudbound.
The story is a simple one - an old man dying of cancer is a world famous photographer. He has some undeveloped Kodachrome film that needs developed. There is only one place in the world that still develops it, and Ben (Ed Harris) needs to get their before it closes. Ben's nurse Zooey, (Elizabeth Olsen) finds Ben's estranged son Matt (Jason Sudeikis) and tries to get him to help take Ben to Kansas to develop these pictures.
Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let's analyze this thing. First off, the cast elevates the story to another level than what the script could do by itself. It is still a beautifully written script by Jonathan Tropper (who was a writer/Executive Producer the television show Banshee) that was based off of an article written by A.J. Sulzberger. This movie has the best performance of Sudeikis's career, and one of the best of Elizabeth Olsen and Ed Harris. The chemistry between the three of them is absolutely phenomenal. I can't stress this enough, the cast was perfectly chosen, and they all brought their A-game. If you weren't in love with Olsen or Sudeikis before this, you will be now. Expect to hear more about this movie come award season for these three.
There are no surprise twists in Kodachrome. The film plays out exactly how you think it will. The reveal of what is on the film is exactly what you think it is. The end game of every character is spot on to your thoughts. Despite all of that, it all feels earned. The emotional resonance of the film is strong, and the scenes that are supposed to pack a punch, do. Every character beat feels earned. Every step in the separate, yet intersecting journeys of Ben, Zooey and Matt make sense.
The characters make it so you are invested in them quickly. You instantly root for all of them to get exactly what they want in life. I maintain that the perfect movie needs an equal balance of plot and character development. Tons of movies do one of those well, it is very rare to have both happen. Kodachrome is definitely stronger in the "character" department, but the plot is fueled by their development, so the symbiote circle is effective. The irony is not lost on me that the more the characters become developed, the closer they get to Kansas to get the Kodachrome film developed too.
Raso does a good job in presenting the narrative. This is only his second feature length film, but he has a ton of short films under his belt. The road trip movie is tried and true, but Raso brings a fresh feel to it. It is masterful work though - you will call both main male characters an asshole at least 4 times, while simultaneously rooting for them. That is a credit to all three parties - writers, director, and actors.
Kodachrome wonderfully portrays the familial bond that is difficult to get away from. The things we would do for our family are deeper and way more intense than they are for anyone else. Even when you make each other angry, or constantly disappoint one another, you're still their for them. Matt went on this journey for selfish reason - but the selfish reason put on front street by the film was not the actual selfish reason. Matt is a broken man, and went on this journey with Ben (who he never calls "Dad" once), to find some reason, closure, and tool to fix his relationship with his father before it is too late.
If you like this sort of movie, Kodachrome is one of the better versions of it. If you have had any sort of family tension whatsoever, you will be able to relate to this. You might even shed a tear or two over the beautifully told story. I did. With a strong cast rounded out by the likes of Dennis Haysbert and Bruce Greenwood, this movie is worth your time.
Kodachrome is now streaming exclusively on NETFLIX.