Humboldt County

"Weak"

Humboldt County Review


Writer-directors Danny Jacobs and Darren Grodsky cite Bob Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces as a major inspiration behind their debut feature Humboldt County. Indeed, both films involve lost young men who feel alienated from their fathers, and who find themselves on a soul-searching road trip in which they confront their innermost insecurities. But beneath these cosmetic similarities, Humboldt County is less the raw and daring cinema in the vein of Five Easy Pieces, and more just another Sundance-friendly "indie" flick, a slightly more off-kilter version of, say, Garden State.

Like the mentally-stunted protagonist of Garden State, we have Peter, Humboldt County's med school flunkie. Jeremy Strong's performance as Peter gives Zach Braff's in Garden State a run for its money for its sheer criminal blandness. Strong plays Peter as a cipher, wavering between the emotional blankness of a borderline catatonic and the comic dithering of a nebbish. Peter's identity has been neutered by a domineering father (Peter Bogdanovich), a UCLA medical professor who one day tells his underperforming son, who's also his student, that he's going to flunk him.

In the ensuing downward spiral, Peter hops into bed and then into a car with the coquettish and freewheeling Bogart (Fairuza Balk) as she heads home to the title county, California's so-called "lost coast," a northern enclave of pot farmers and post-hippie dropouts living among the redwood forests. Here, Peter finds himself the outsider amidst Bogart's ragtag clan. The leader of the pack is Jack (Brad Dourif), an erstwhile physics professor now ensconced in his woodsy homestead, subsisting on the earnings from growing and selling marijuana, and supposedly perfecting his kooky scientific theories. Jack's partners in exile include Rosie (Frances Conroy), a holdover of the flower-power days and the widow of Jack's closest friend; Rosie's son, Max (Chris Messina), a bit lost himself since the death of his father and planning to yield huge profits from his own secret pot-growing operation, so he can get his daughter, Charity (Madison Davenport), out of the boonies.

Freaked out by all the pot and antsy to get home, Peter resists getting into the groove of counterculture life, but, before long, differences fade away in the clouds of pot-smoke and a few companionable pisses to help the soil along. What sustains this predictable stretch of the film is a combination of Brad Dourif's warm, grizzled performance, production designer Freddy Naff's lived-in interiors, and cinematographer Ernest Holzman's visuals, which get the most out of the gorgeous, light-dappled forest and seaside settings. Max's marijuana capitalism and Peter's cultural initiation roll together in Jacobs and Grodsky's script, which builds towards a confrontation finale involving the Feds. Thankfully, Peter is on hand to keep Max from unhinging, and, when further tragedies strike, he's there to prop up Jack and Rosie too in scenes that have the forced lyrical touch of similar scenes from this vapid ilk of contemporary American "indie" cinema. A long soliloquy delivered by Rosie about her husband's passing reaches for the truths of Hal Ashby, but it rings false because Humboldt County's characterizations feel contrived rather than organic, thereby reducing such moments to ad hoc novelties.

Bogdanovich's presence adds class and a wry, welcome wit to the whole thing, and it's ironic considering that his character is an urbane professional totally out of sorts in the wilderness yet feels more at ease in his own skin than anyone else around. It's a pleasure to watch Bogdanovich, a well-documented cinema lover, take part in something meant to riff on the cinema of his heyday. In fact, Humboldt County's ending bears a resemblance to that of Five Easy Pieces, and while we appreciate Bogdanovich's funny participation in the scene, and Peter's final gesture as a reference to the earlier film, the whole thing feels wrong and cheeky: A nod to the style of the '70s, but with the heart and substance of Sundance at its blandest.

Frances Conroy's hippie hair earns another paycheck.



Humboldt County

Facts and Figures

Run time: 97 mins

In Theaters: Friday 26th September 2008

Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 60%
Fresh: 12 Rotten: 8

IMDB: 6.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Danny Jacobs, Darren Grodsky

Producer: Jason Weiss

Starring: as Peter, as Bogart, as Professor Hadley, as Jack, as Rosie, as Charity, as Max, Darren Grodsky as Bob, Darren Grodsky as Earl

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.