Kodachrome introduces us to Matt (Jason Sudeikis), a record executive whose recent inability to sign big-name artists has him rapidly approaching the end of his career. He’s soon introduced to Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen), the nurse currently caring for his estranged father and renown photographer, Ben Ryder (Ed Harris). After learning Ben is dying, Matt is initially indifferent, however eventually agrees to take him on a pilgrimage to have some pictures he took long ago developed in exchange for a sit-down with a popular rock band. And so Matt, Zoe and Ben head off to Kansas in Ben’s convertible to get to the last store in America developing Kodachrome film stock before it’s closed for good.
The movie you have in your head after reading the above is probably very much the same as the one in the cinema. Kodachrome leans very heavily on trope, going well past the point of being predictable it actually starts to get a bit distracting. Matt hates his dad, Zoe wants them to reconnect, and Ben is really mean to everyone. It’s not to say that the movie doesn’t have its strengths, but even when there are strong character exchanges or the humour hits its mark, it just feels a bit too lazy to have any lasting impact.
Which is a shame, as there are actually some really neat ideas sprinkled throughout the script. The underlying allegory of getting the film developed before it’s too late and a father wanting to make things right with his son may be a little on the nose, but in practice works well to help frame their relationship in a way that many of the heavier-handed scenes failed to. As much as the some of the plot developments can be seen coming a mile away, as Kodachrome edges closer and closer to the end of their journey it does start to develop a bit more personality and treats you to some very gentle, but nonetheless poignant, glimpses into Ben’s struggle between his pride and his regret.
I do also have to give the film points for letting Ben truly flourish as the asshole Matt announces him to be. More often than not this archetype would likely be someone who is perhaps a bit crotchety, but deep down an empathetic character. Ed Harris, however, asks us to root for someone who is truly cruel and unapologetic, but somehow still kind of engrossing. He is constantly at odds with himself; at once remorseful of the pain he has caused and wanting to reconnect with his son, but also extremely proud for being a man that lived life on his own terms and took the world up on whatever (and whoever) it had to offer. While he doesn’t get too many showy scenes, Harris is easily the MVP here and manages to make the portrayal of a man who pulls everyone around him into his orbit feel humble and understated.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said of Matt and Zoe, who never really get to establish themselves as more than carbon copies of roles you’ve seen a million times before. While both Sudeikis and Olsen turn in solid performances, but there just isn’t enough material for either role to justify a spot in your memory banks. Sudeikis’ Matt probably fairs a little better by virtue of screen time and getting the best material with Ben, but there simply isn’t enough meat for him to make a meal out it.
There isn’t too much to pick apart in Kodachrome aside from its familiarity, but it does feel like that’s more because there just isn’t too much to it in general. There are a few heart-warming moments and the drive behind their road-trip makes for a neat setup, but with so little in the way of originality, and only one of its three characters at all interesting, Kodachrome is probably best reserved as a safe movie for taking an older demographic to the movies, or something you catch on TV down the track.
SCREEN REALM SCORE: ★★★☆☆
‘Kodachome’ opens in Australian cinemas on June 7 and is streaming on Netflix in the US.