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Backseat (2008)
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by Laura Kyle

"Sideways: The Extra Funny Version Without the Wine Metaphors"
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL: I don't think there were more than two full minutes, in total, that I wasn't smiling during Backseat.

Wordsmith and supporting actor Josh Alexander plays Colton, a failed actor and college frat boy who's in his 30's and isn't in college. Rob Bogue is his conservative buddy Ben, who's having troubles with promiscuous girlfriend Shelle (Aubrey Dollar).

Ben opts to entertain Colton's dreams of meeting idol Donald Sutherland, so the two embark on a road trip to Montreal to eat dinner at the same restaurant Sutherland eats at...only stopping to pee, eat, sleep, deal drugs, get in gun shootouts, etc.

Now, before you roll your eyes and scoff that Sideways is the only Guy Road Trip Movie worthy of your time, let me report that Backseat is ve-hery funny and grounded in relatable, loveable characters -- and a few odd ones too.

While every actor gets a moment or two to shine, Josh Alexander is the standout here. As a writer and actor, he's making quite a charming impression on his new audience with Backseat. He sells a character that's super overdone -- the goofball partier -- and that's as much to his credit as a screenwriter as it is to his ability as a performer.

There's a lot of backstory about the two friends that the audience only gets to hear bits and pieces of, which makes the film all the more appealing -- because it's not the character's histories that are important, it's how believable their friendship is. The narrative details are superfluous and luckily the filmmakers know this. Thus, Backseat has a curiously natural quality about it, even though it's also a clever, comedic yarn of sorts (and one that's fortunately never crude, but never cutesy either).

Bruce Van Dusen's direction is far from ostentatious and Ari Issler's cinematography helps to create somewhat of a whitewashed look to the film. The result is a comfortable and easygoing pace with a focus on the characters.

What's most surprising about this "freshman" effort by Alexander, is how effortless it all appears.

Alexander's humor is derived from a very real knack for comedy coupled with an equally acute understanding of his audience, so Backseat ends up a truly memorable, funny...yes...Guy Road Trip Movie.

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originally posted: 10/23/05 17:32:08
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2005 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

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