Kodachrome – Review

Kodachrome is available to stream on Netflix beginning April 20th.

By Hemanth Kissoon

Ed Harris brings class, but this is a syrupy road movie. Obvious, predictable, sentimental, there are virtually no surprises. Kodachrome is a TV melodrama of the week, with a name cast. One is not sure what drew the main players to this project.

Matt Ryder (Jason Sudeikis) is a hipster music exec. At least he is trying to be. Like everyone in this movie, his character is irritating. Kodachrome reminds of the television show misfire Vinyl. The dialogue is full of leaden clangers. Try-hard lingo hurts the ears. Straight away the character is on the back foot. Why should we care about him? Rescued from audience indifference, Matt is shown to be having a hard time. We can all empathise with that. In his case, his wife left him. His top artist signing has unceremoniously dumped him and gone to a rival. His indie record label employer is about to fire him. To save his job, Matt has two weeks to sign band of the moment, The Spare Sevens. (What a terrible name!)

Just as his life is imploding with betrayals, Zoe Barnes (Elizabeth Olsen) turns up at his office. She is the assistant to Ben Ryder (Ed Harris), Matt’s estranged dad. Father and son are not on speaking terms. Zoe reveals Ben has terminal liver cancer. With about three months to live, Ben seems to be putting his house in order. The dramatic spanner comes in the form of his abrasive personality. The gears of forced conflict grind audibly.

Ben is a legendary photographer. Clearly successful, he lives in a palatial pad. Arrogant and antagonistic, Ben lacks humility and contrition. He has a mouth on him, and is not accustomed to self-censorship. Is that down to age and/or wealth/professional renown? Obviously lacking emotional intelligence, we have to endure the entire runtime before he does what we expect.

Ben has fabricated a way to spend time with his son. The last lab that processes Kodachrome film is closing. He claims to not trust the post. Ben wants to develop four rolls of film. They need to drive from New York to Parsons, Kansas by Labour Day. It is transparently a clumsy excuse for some kind of rapprochement. Larry Holt (Dennis Haysbert), Ben’s manager, incentives Matt’s acquiescence by promising a meeting on the way with The Spare Sevens.

Kodachrome is about the end of eras, in music and photography. Matt’s boss says music is now airborne. (Groan!) Ben bemoans the billions of photos now being taken that are just data. There is no conversational examination of the industries. What are the customer failings that lead to this? Where are the pushbacks on the arguments? The democratisation of photography and music is not spoken of. Kodachrome is vacuous.

So the three take a road trip in a convertible with cheesy father-son bonding, and a cornball will-they-won’t-they frisson between Zoe and Matt, equaling two layers of triteness. Wait for the grab-the-sick bucket ending. You can guess what was on the last rolls of film. Everything is so spelled out and signposted. Kodachrome is lowest common denominator cinema.

I give Kodachrome a D+.


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