High Road, a new low-budget stoner comedy directed by Matt Walsh (Due Date), is a step above the usual fare associated with the genre. While still not “high art,” it did provide an enjoyable story, fun characters, and the chance to see some relatively new young actors in largely improvisational roles.
Starring James Pumphery as Glenn “Fitz” Fitzgerald, the dialog in this movie was largely improvised based on paragraph-long scene descriptions given to the actors before each scene would shoot. As is often the case, that style of movie-making made the acting seem more realistic, but the dialog also suffered a bit because of it.
Glenn, a pot-dealing musician, first sees his band break up around him, and then he has a bad close encounter with the police. This drives him out west with 16-year-old Jimmy (played by 20 year-old Dylan O’Brien) who is trying to escape a father (played by Rob Riggle) threatening to send him to military school. The majority of the movie is a crazed road trip where Glenn and Jimmy try to make it to Oakland, California while encountering one weird person and situation after another.
Meanwhile, Glenn’s girlfriend, Monica (Abby Elliot, Saturday Night Live), gets news which shakes her and her relationships to the core. Unaware of Glenn’s whereabouts, the stress brings her to a near-breaking point that was superbly acted by Elliot. Not surprising, as she is the real-life daughter of the very talented comedian Chris Elliot.
One of the most delightful characters in the movie was that of an unnamed prostitute with an obsession for sexual orientations, portrayed in a fabulous, if short, performance by Morgan Walsh. Look for more of her in the future, as she really brought her role to light. Horatio Sanz also makes an appearance as an extremely disturbing doctor with issues of his own which need to be addressed.
The characters were quite enjoyable to me as people, although they did have a tendency to be a little too over the top to be very realistic, and I wish that Glenn and Jimmy’s friendship had been developed more during the course of their road trip. Also, many of the other characters seemed to not be quite fleshed-out enough for my taste. Developing interests and activities for characters can often add an extra dimension to movies which this film seemed to lack at times.
However, Walsh’s directing was superb, and the cinematography was also very well done by Hillary Spera, with some imaginative angles and ways of shooting scenes that might have otherwise suffered a “talking heads” syndrome.
Even if you do not normally enjoy so-called “stoner” movies, you may just find yourself wrapped up in the story of High Road. This movie is new to the web, and is certainly worth watching.