Can William H. Macy steer Rudderless successfully from the director’s chair?

by Martin Hafer

Actor William H. Macy has been in a ton of TV shows, movies and Broadway, and if you don’t recognize the name, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll recognize his face. He’s also a very well respected actor–the sort of guy who plays great supporting characters or the occasional leading man. However, I didn’t know that he could not only act but direct films as well as co-write them. This is exactly the case with Rudderless–an excellent new film that has just debuted on DVD.

Directed by
William H. Macy
Billy Crudup, Anton Yelchin, Felicity Huffman
Release Date
17 October 2014
Martin’s Grade: A-

When Rudderless begins, a young college student dies. A couple of years pass and the dead guy’s family has fallen apart. The parents divorced, the father is now an alcoholic who lost his high-paying job and now is a house painter. It’s obvious that the family was destroyed by the death. However, when the dad, Sam (Billy Crudup) happens to find some music his dead son wrote, he decides to carry on his son’s memory by performing these songs himself. Soon, he finds himself with some new friends…and a band with guys half his age and with a cult following! But he’s still a drunk and a screw-up…and there is still something else about his son you’ll have to learn that makes the whole story a lot more confusing.

The best thing about Rudderless is that it’s unusual and I can’t say I’ve seen anything like it. I love seeing a film that doesn’t remind me of other movies–and this originality is a huge plus. Crudup is quite nice in the lead and it’s a treat hearing him sing. But it’s also nice to see him with a lot of excellent supporting actors as well. Aside from some very talented newcomers, you’ll also see Macy himself, his wife (Felicity Huffman), Laurence Fishburn as well as Selena Gomez. I know this is an unusual combination of actors, but they all perform well. Add to this some very nice music and you have the recipe for a film that’s worth your while if you are the sort of person that appreciates independent films.

By the way, the film is rated R but to me this seems misleading. While there is some cursing, the film seemed no worse than most PG-13 films and felt appropriate for teens.