The road trip movie only requires two elements for success – a protagonist worth following and road-worthy wheels.
Consider the antiquated mini-bus at the heart of “Bass Ackwards,” the new indie film just released on DVD, an exception to that rule.
It’s a comical contraption that looks as if it couldn’t make it to the grocery store and back, let alone take its driver cross country.
Yes, the vehicle hearkens back to the one used in “Little Miss Sunshine.” But here the bus serves as the ideal conduit for a luckless fellow’s attempts at resuscitating his life.
The film, a 2010 Sundance Film Festival Official Selection, stars writer/director Linas Phillips as a man who could use a change of scenery.
Linas (the auteur uses his real first name) is involved with an unfaithful girlfriend, has next to no money and is about to get bounced from his friend’s couch.
He ends up getting a job at a llama farm (indie quirk alert!) where he stumbles across an old bus wasting away in the farmer’s shed.
Before you can say “road trip!” Linas is off, heading from Seattle to the East Coast to reunite with his family.
Along the way he meets some strange characters, including an affable vagabond (Jim Fletcher) with his own tales of woe.
“Bass Ackwards” defies facile description, and its lack of major plot developments will cause some viewers to flee. But Phillips makes us care about the main character, a decent fellow trying to forge a new path for his life.
What’s most touching about the film is how it taps into the sense of loneliness we all feel at times. Linas is desperate to be back in the arms of his girlfriend even though he knows deep down she doesn’t want him there permanently. And the strangers he meets along the way are also looking to make a human connection – or any connection, for that matter.
“Bass Ackwards” offers a parade of small pleasures, but they quickly add up to one emotionally enriching tale.
(Photo: Linas Phillips stars in “Bass Ackwards,” a road trip movie about a man, an open road and a very bizarre looking bus.)