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Sundance '13 Review: Dermot Mulroney Takes A Surreal Road Trip in THE RAMBLER

The Rambler

Writer/Director: Calvin Lee Reeder

Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Lindsay Pulsipher, Natasha Lyonne, James Cady

Official Synopsis: Upon release from prison, a solitary man known only as “the Rambler” embarks on a mysterious journey en route to reconnecting with his long-lost brother. Traversing treacherous back roads, lost highways, and isolated small towns, he unearths a multitude of bizarre and wickedly depraved slices of Americana.

Performances

Dermot Mulroney anchors the film as the wandering lead character, and he fits perfectly in Reeder's strange cinematic world. Though he's been acting in films since the late 80s, he's rarely played a lead part; that pressure doesn't seem to be an issue for him here, since his performance is one of the film's highlights. Lindsay Pulsipher plays a hypnotic love interest who may or may not actually exist, and she's worked with Reeder enough times to be comfortable acting in his unique vision.

Story and Direction

Unlike a lot of films at this festival, The Rambler doesn't require amazing performances to get by. Instead, it's a showcase for Reeder to hone his craft and shape his unique filmmaking voice. Donning a cowboy hat, dark shades, and carrying a guitar case, The Rambler hitchhikes his way across the country and comes across some truly weird situations. He experiences surreal hallucinations, a mad scientist who attempts to read people's dreams with his new invention, a cab driver who likes having sex with injured car crash victims...and that's just the tip of the iceberg. But with as "out there" as all of that sounds, this movie is actually far better (and far more comprehensible) than Reeder's last film The Oregonian, which I called the strangest movie I'd ever seen.

Reeder's dreamlike style shines through here, but at least this one has a narrative throughline that you can follow. His red and green lighting, discordant musical choices, and wonderful use of sound effects all come together to create a world that is unsettling, disturbing, and frightening. The Rambler will definitely be too much for many viewers, but for fans of surrealist cinema or just folks who are a bit open-minded when it comes to traditional structures, this movie will grab you from the opening moments and transport you to a place unlike any you've ever been. Reeder is emerging as one of the most talented and important filmmakers in this genre, and I'm glad that The Rambler was a marked improvement over his last movie. Even if these movies aren't my particular jam, I'm happy that there is a writer/director out there that is able to get an unconvenational vision on the screen, regardless of how twisted and depraved the final product may be.

Similar To

It's a more streamlined story than The Oregonian, but most of you likely haven't seen that movie. Though I don't think Reeder particularly likes being compared to David Lynch, that's really the most mainstream example that I can point to in order to give you an idea of what sort of film this is. The Rambler feels as if Lynch directed a modern western, with a Southern twist and a tinge of science fiction.

Chances You'll See It In Theaters

If you'd like to take a mind trip, Anchor Bay Films just bought rights for theatrical, home entertainment, television and digital distribution for The Rambler, but no release date has been set yet.

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