Goes downhill after a promising start

by Josh Stillman

By now, just about everyone knows who Tatiana Maslany is – either because you watch Orphan Black, or have heard people talking excitedly about Orphan Black, or have seen the posters for Orphan Black plastered all over the New York City subway. That show, now in its third season, quickly became a runaway success for BBC America, and has transformed its star into both a recognizable figure and an industry darling (lamenting Maslany’s consecutive Emmy snubs is something of an internet phenomenon)

But as recently as 2012, she was still a largely unknown Canadian actress, consigned to forgettable indie fare like Cas & Dylan. Maslany devotees – and there are many, due to her newfound popularity – will find little of interest here, aside from the fact that this was the last feature she made before landing her breakout role. She’s the best thing in the movie, but it’s not enough to keep this clunker afloat.

Cas & Dylan
Directed by
Jason Priestley
Tatiana Maslany, Richard Dreyfuss, Jayne Eastwood
Release Date
1 May 2015
Josh’s Grade: C-

Maslany plays Dylan Morgan, a free-spirited aspiring author with a dream but little direction; Richard Dreyfuss is Cas Pepper, a solitary, crotchety aging physician with a terminal prognosis. After a series of incidents that strain one’s credulity, the two wind up driving across Canada together. There’s no need to explain the rest because the premise is so worn and the movie –helmed by Beverly Hills 90210 alum Jason Priestly, making his feature film directorial debut – does nothing to upend our expectations. At first the two clash because of their differences; then they connect; in the end they both emerge changed, for the better, by the experience. And in case any of that failed to register, don’t worry – the characters themselves serve as virtual CliffsNotes:

Dylan: “I’m a ray of sunshine inside your dismal life.”

Cas: “I had a plan and you f—ed it up, and against all odds, we became friends.”

Dylan: “I truly believe that if you make a difference in one person’s life, then your life had meaning.”

For moviegoers who need their themes spelled out in all caps, look no further.

As I mentioned before, Maslany is the highlight. She gamely makes the most of the material she’s given, exuding a wily charisma and bringing some much-needed life to this tired genre exercise. Not all of her lines are winners – as we’ve seen, screenwriter Jessie Gabe’s script can be ungainly and on-the-nose – but she delivers them with offhand verve. Dreyfuss, however, restricts himself to a grumpy-old-man shtick that quickly wears thin and renders their banter more obnoxious than charming.

What’s especially disappointing is that, in the beginning, Cas & Dylan seemed like it was on to something. The first ten minutes are pleasantly understated – the dialogue is spare but crisp, and Priestley gives the action a muted, naturalistic rhythm, not over-reliant on words or music. Dreyfuss, as well, is at his best in these early moments – dry, sardonic, and empathetic, before he devolves into caricature. There’s a noticeable spark here, but it proves to be nothing more than that, and is soon extinguished by a torrent of tropes.