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Rudderless (9/10)

by Tony Medley

Running time 104 minutes.

OK for children.

William H. Macy, whose best known movie role is Fargo, makes his directorial debut (he also has a writing credit along with Casey Twenter & Jeff Robison) a smashing one with this startling story of a middle-aged man, Sam (Billy Crudup), who has become a down and out drunk living on a boat after a family tragedy, and who gets involved in a garage band with three guys who are a generation junior to him playing music written by his deceased son.

But thatís not all there is to the story. To tell any more of it would ruin the surprises that unfold. Iíve already told more than I would like. Suffice it to say that Crudup gives an award-quality performance, ably abetted by Anton Yelchin, who is almost a co-star, Felicity Huffman, Laurence Fishburne, and Macy himself who owns the bar that runs the open mic where Sam plays.

While the story is mesmerizing, the music (Simon Steadman and Charlton Pettus) is quite good and whatís even more impressive is that Crudup and Yelchin were doing their own singing and guitar playing, which is exceptionally good.

It took Macy more than two years to put this together and get it in the can. He says he wants to do nothing but direct from now on. Based on this, he has a bright future behind the camera because despite the fact that itís a movie of music and talk with no action, Macy keeps the pace moving throughout. There was never a time in the film that I felt I could leave for a few minutes without missing something.

Macy was shooting on an extremely small budget. He tells about one of the biggest scenes in the movie where they had to block off an entire street and set up a huge rock Ďn roll stage with speakers and lights and trucks. The designer asked Macy how much he thought it cost. Macy said $75,000. The designer shook his head, so Macy said $25,000, and he shook his head again. Macy said, ďYou mean it was free?Ē The designer smiled and said not only was it not free, they made $5,000 on it selling advertising to Mustang Beer and everything else was free. So goes todayís movie business for an independent.

Macy deals with a situation that seems to arise more and more often in our society, but approaches it from a unique point of view, which makes it challenging and touching. This is a film that deserves to make a lot of money because itís one of the best Iíve seen this year.

September 23, 2014