31 August 2010 | gradyharp
The Idea May Not Be New, But This Film Is FRESH!
It seems like every year or so the cinema comes out with a 'road movie' - an extended revelation of character deficiencies and nobilities played out on the open road (such as 'La Strada', 'Easy Rider', 'Thelma and Louise', 'About Schmidt', 'Motorcycle Diaries', 'The Adventures of Felix', 'Central Station' etc). They usually do well at the box office as a type of catharsis for the audience. That '$5 A DAY', given an excellent script by writing team Neal and Tippi Dobrofsky, a director with the comic timing such as Nigel Cole, and one of the finest groomed casts around, wasn't a major hit is puzzling. Timing, I suppose, but at least we have the great opportunity to see this little jewel of a movie on DVD. By all means pay attention.
Richie Flynn Parker (the gem of an actor Allesandro Nivola who can play comedy as well as he handles drama) is unhappy: he is a conservative Health inspector of restaurants - fired when his police record is uncovered (he had taken the wrap for one of his father's capers), married to Maggie (Amanda Peet) who is leaving him because he never communicates about who he really is, and discovers a letter from his gallivanting grifter huckster father Nat Parker (Christopher Walken in a pitch perfect comedic role) who claims he is dying from a brain tumor and needs a ride to New Mexico for a special treatment. Because Flynn's life is such a mess he consents to go and he and his father set out in a 'Sweet and Low' advertising little auto. Nat shows how he can live on $5 a day by sleeping in empty homes, pulling shenanigans to get free food, entry into parties (Dean Cain plays an 'old acquaintance'), and money and gas. The two spar about why Nat was never there for Flynn, how their relationship is broken, and gradually Flynn discovers the realities of his background - realities he nightly shares on voicemail to his wife Maggie. Along the way the two make stops including a visit to Flynn's previous babysitter Dolores (Sharon Stone, better than ever!), a woman who knows how to bolster Nat's morale and brighten his life - as well as fill Flynn in on some important truths about his parental past. Flynn questions whether Nat really is dying or is just pulling off a scam to get a trip to New Mexico. But in Albuquerque Nat meets up with an old debtor Kruger, now wealthy because of Nat's assistance years ago, and in the process of correcting problems with the past, Flynn's true identity is revealed. What began as a raw, near hostile relationship between Nat and Flynn is transformed in a very touching manner.
It is such a pleasure to jump into the trip and go along with this entertaining ride with Walken and Nivola because they are so very fine in their roles that we feel like we know them well. The balance between hilarity and pathos is excellent and the quality of every aspect of this little Indie film is first class. Highly recommended!