Review: Amerikana DVD

STUDIO: Olive Films | DIRECTOR: James Merendino | CAST: James Duval, Michael Goorgian, Tara Agace, Morgan Vukovic
RELEASE DATE: 5/4/2010 | PRICE: DVD $29.95
BONUSES: commentary, Dogme 95 rules
SPECS: NR | 95 min. | Comedy drama | widescreen | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

In the 2001 low-budget road movie Amerikana, twenty-somethings Chris (James Duval) and Peter (Michael Goorjian) travel to South Dakota to pick up a motorcycle that Chris has inherited. Excited for a cross-country adventure, optimistic Chris looks forward to a Jack Kerouac-like experience. Pessimistic Peter, however, is nursing a broken heart after his girlfriend leaves him and merely wants an excuse to get away.

When the pair arrives in South Dakota, the motorcycle turns out to be a Vespa, but the two friends use it anyway on the long drive back to Los Angeles. Along the way, Chris and Peter develop a deeper friendship and gain a new perspective on life.

At least, that’s what director James Merendino (SLC Punk!) likely wants to communicate. But Amerikana doesn’t ever really take off. The friendship between the two main characters doesn’t seem very plausible, nor are either of them particularly appealing. The independent film offers some minor plot twists in the third act that seem incongruous with the characters, but perhaps this reflects the changes that the road trip has caused. Either way, the final act’s surprise ending comes off as strange, not emotional. Cue the pan away shot of the motorbike on the desolate road.

The DVD features some supplements, including commentary by director Merendino, a photo gallery and Web links. Released in 2001, Amerikana was shown on the USA Network and is film number 13 in the Dogme 95 Collective, the avant-garde filmmaking movement started fifteen years ago by Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg.

 

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