Like a road-movie with a flat tire, this is a dull 1950’s journey along Route 66 in the company of a young man, his mother and brother, searching for….well, not much. And they find it – everywhere. Loosely based on the childhood of actor George Hamilton, it’s an overwritten and witless comedy, long on trivial adventure and short of drama and energy.
Renee Zellweger plays Ann Devereaux, extravagant wife of philandering Band Leader Danny Devereaux (Kevin Bacon). After finding one of her husband’s singers in the marital bed, Ann decides to take her two sons, 15 year-old George (Logan Lerman) and 17 year-old Robbie (Mark Rendall) on an extended trip to escape New York. George, the narrator of the story, still looks up to his father Danny and drives the sky-blue Cadillac, whilst the effeminate Robbie (who is not Danny’s son) sews on the back seat. They pass through a parade of towns, Ann looking for a husband, Robbie for a part in a school play, and George for a way to contact Dad. Most of the people they meet along the way are – very conveniently – old flames of Ann’s, each arriving in the appropriate town just as the previous one has failed to turn provider for the trio. More interesting than the story are Ms. Zellweger’s outfits and the composed performance of Lerman (who recently played the title role in the first of Percy Jackson fantasy franchise).
The combination of Charlie Peters’ episodic and dialogue-driven screenplay with Richard Loncraine’s lackluster direction results in a dreary affair – none of the characters seeming to care for anyone or anything. Kevin Bacon turns to ham as the washed up musician, and Zellweger maintains a stiff composure that might be taken as dignity. Ultimately it’s the simplistic screenplay at fault, Peter’s not giving us a chance to come to know or like anyone, as there’s so little drama and no driving energy for the narrative. Director Loncraine ends many scenes with a prolonged vacant stare into the middle distance from one of the characters (a strategy more closely associated with midday soaps) and I imagined the cast thinking: “I will read the script more carefully next time.”
In recent interviews and in his 2008 autobiography, George Hamilton (who is an Executive Producer of the film) talks about this period of his life with a great deal more complexity than what we are shown in this version of events, even confessing an affair with his stepmother. It’s a shame this version is so sanitised and lifeless.