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Old 02-07-2010, 12:14 PM   #1
DavyG
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The Hitchhiking Movie

Director:
Ryan Jeanes & Phillip Hullquist
Genre:
Documentary
Length:
Feature

Website:
http://www.11visions.com/adventures/the-hitchh

Score:
3.5/5

Well, I am a sucker for movies about road trips, especially when the goal is something like discovering the “real America” or something to that effect, whether or not the subjects ever succeed in finding an answer is beside the point, the answer is in quest so I was predisposed to like "The Hitchiking Movie". I suppose that there could be a cross-country road trip movie where the characters only encounter boring people but, speaking for myself, I would probably that pretty interesting.

Of course, the best movies are those that have some dramatic tension or conflict that makes them compelling. So, in the case of the documentary “The Hitchhiking Movie”, the creators Ryan Jeanes and Philip Hullquist wisely manufacture tension where there might not have been any. Unlike narrative road trip films where characters are on the run from the law, have to get to a loved one before he or she dies, have to get to the concert before the drugs run out, have to see XYZat least once, hook up with the girl of your dreams or any number of other quests, the guys in this film have purchased plane tickets from the west coast back to the east coast and they need to make sure that they can get out west in time for their flight.
Jeanes plays host/protagonist, while Hullquist shoots the action and contributes commentary here and there while they set out from New York City with a hypothetical goal, to see if kindness still exists in the country today, to see if they can rely on the generosity of strangers, to see if they can go cross country without spending a dime of their own money.

It's an interesting premise and, in some ways, richer and ripe with more potential than Morgan Sprulock's much more famous personal/hypothetical “watch me” doc, “Super Size Me” – which is only partly about his consumption of fast food. I kept waiting for the film to dissolve into morality tales and become allegorical, didactic and heavy-handed but it never did, thankfully.

Jeanes is a bit of an odd character, at the same not exactly appealing but wildly engaging, an improbable mix of earnest, wide eyed enthusiasm, wry humor and sometimes overbearing obnoxiousness. Of course, his personality and they way he plays off the variety of characters he meets along the way to achieving his goal is exactly what makes the film so relentlessly watchable.

As mentioned at the start, the film comes pre-loaded with tension – will they make it in time for their flight, was this whole thing a stupid idea – and that element really serves the film well. In a move that could have really backfired, they pepper the film with lots of on-screen graphics, fun facts about the people and places they are seeing, a running tally of the goods and services that they have received for free and, I don't know if this is just me but, that a number of their little “pop-ups” had spelling or grammatical errors, sort of added to what I am going to call “homespun charm” of the film.

Novelist John Updike has said that there are only two stories out there:
1) A stranger comes to town
or
2)Someone takes a journey.

As a screenwriting teacher I always tell my students that most films are about someone taking a journey, either literally or figuratively and, what hooks most viewers is the desire to see how things turn out for the characters at the end of the road. “The Hitchhiking Movie” is a journey worth taking.
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