We’ll lead this one off with an outright bias admission: We just finished rolling through Rudderless for the third time and it still gets us in all the right places at all the right times.
First time out of the directorial blocks for William H. Macy, who has benefited much from his apparent understanding and portrayal of people deeply on the skids, the movie is about the effects of loss and extended despair, the central character Sam (Billy Crudup of Almost Famous fame) circling the drain before finding redemption in the music he has always loved.
A tres smooth advertising exec who ends up chipping paint flakes off the houses he paints for a living after his son is killed in a campus shooting, Sam is since divorced, living on a boat after losing his ultra-modern, uber cool executive’s glass house and has become best friends with anything with a cork in it.
His equally grieving ex-wife (Felicity Huffman) returns their son Josh’s old guitar and a box of college recordings – as eager to be rid of them as a well-lubricated Sam is to decipher Josh’s lyrics.
Succumbing to the musical rumblings that bonded father with son before they were torn apart, Sam finds himself learning Josh’s music and ultimately trying it out before a live audience at an open-mic cabaret owned by Macy.
Josh’s haunting lyrics light up a haunted patron named Quentin (Anton Yelchin), who finds meaning in the songwriting and who pursues a very reluctant Sam to form a band – which he does under protest. Christened “Rudderless” with backup from real-life rockers Ben Kweller and Ryan Dean, the band attracts a following with Sam carried along by the high of playing music again, without ever mentioning the source of his lyrical inspiration.
Sam’s connection to his son’s music and his deepening relationship with Quentin provide the pace for much of the film, prompting the area’s hip music store owner (Laurence Fishburne) to remark: “It’s great, what you’re doing for that boy.”
Perhaps, but there’s more to the music (original songs from Simon Steadman, Charlton Pettus, and Ben Limpic) and the band’s rousing popularity as we soon find out, Sam taking his lumps and coming to grips with his own reasoning before resorting to an on-stage confession of sorts.
Why We Liked It: First, the story line. Second, the music. And great performances demonstrating the transformative effects of music. It took us a bit to get over Felicity Huffman ’cause of the whole “my baby’s too smart to study” scandal which followed the release of her husband’s film, but she’s not onscreen for long.
Quotable Quote: “You know, I don’t get the appeal of fishing…”
“Really. Well, I would imagine that most activities performed in silence don’t make much sense to you.”
Where: Available on Amazon Prime.