‘The Long Dumb Road’ Review: Jason Mantzoukas Dispenses Life Lessons

Posted November 8, 2018 7:42 p.m. EST

Normally, when the drifter you’ve given a lift offers you a “road brew” — a beer for the drive — you might think deeply about letting him ride shotgun for the next 1,000 miles. But for Nat (Tony Revolori), who is traveling from Texas to start art school in Los Angeles, Richard (Jason Mantzoukas) has a worldly allure. Besides, Nat owes Richard, who has already fixed his car.

Richard is older than Nat, and much of “The Long Dumb Road,” directed and co-written by Hannah Fidell (whose mother is Linda Greenhouse, the longtime Supreme Court writer for The New York Times) is a solid movie about the wisdom of the intervening years.

The sheltered, wide-eyed Nat, crossing the country with his Pentax K1000 camera, regards everyone as a potential artistic subject. Richard, who has a drinking problem and could probably stand some grooming, wonders if he took a wrong turn 25 years ago. (That doesn’t stop him, of course, from dispensing nonstop life lessons to Nat.)

The leads’ chemistry nearly redeems this shopworn setup, and the movie is at its best when it simply chills out with them. The overly broad detours are less successful: Only someone as naive as Nat could think that Richard’s unannounced visit to an old flame might go well, and a thread involving Ron Livingston as a former hell-raising friend of Richard’s rapidly becomes cringeworthy.

But the movie, which rallies in the end, is wise enough to know that not every problem can be solved in the duration of a trip.

“The Long Dumb Road”

Rated R. Road brews. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.