I Think, Maybe, You Missed the Point.
It’s weird. It’s different. It’s creepy. It’s confusing. But it feels like I’ve seen it all before. In fact, by the time the end of the film rolls around, I’m sure I’ve seen it.
The Rambler made a journey around the festival circuit earlier this year garnering a variety of reviews from good to bad to somewhere in between, and similar to the main character, played by Dermot Mulroney, The Rambler falls somewhere in between.
If you attempt to follow this movie in some linear fashion you will fail, but nevertheless, here’s an attempt at a linear story line: The Rambler tells the story of an unnamed man, the Rambler (Mulroney), recently released from prison. He no longer fits in with his girl, Cheryl (Natasha Lyonne), his friends, or his former job. Lyonne has a brief but mesmerizing role implying the abilities she has given us in glimpses over the years, but never fully developed. Eventually, the Rambler decides to take to the highway and hitchhike his way to Oregon to stay with his brother where salvation and second chances await.
The movie is repetitious, but intentionally so. From the reappearance of a mysterious girl (Lindsay Pulsipher), to the various gooey substances falling on the Rambler’s face, to the letter of salvation from the Rambler’s brother, to the haunting and violent images that abruptly take command of the movie, to the repetitions on the endless highway. The Rambler is repetitious, intentionally but also sporadically so.
Mulroney is the epitome of cool, always calm and calculated, never revealing too much. This is one of his finest roles, regardless of how a viewer feels about the ultimate product that is this movie.
When I say I’ve seen it all before, I’m not talking about the endless David Lynch comparisons, but rather, what should be the Adrian Lyne and Jacob’s Ladder comparisons.
It’s ethereal and non-linear. At times, The Rambler is both compelling and repulsive. It creates a sense of uneasiness and uncertainty, but at it’s heart, that’s right, I’ve seen it before.
Spoilers lie ahead, so stop here and continue no further if you aren’t quite ready for a few revelations about The Rambler.
Read on to find out more about this breakdown.
[EXPAND Spoilers ahead: Proceed with Caution! Click Here to read more!]
Look away now … everything below is a spoiler!
The Rambler, I think, is Jacob’s Ladder. When the story begins, the protagonist is already dead, or on his way, he even tells us as much at the very end. And, the rest of the story, well, it’s already happened, it’s never happened, or it sort of happened.
Take the Scientist (James Cady) and his mystical dream machine, which will “capture the essence of your very mind.” This mysterious machine magically captures dream memories to videotape and records them at a deep and fatal price. The Scientist goes on an inadvertent killing spree, but is ultimately piecing together pieces of the Rambler’s mind.
The Rambler presents a battle of the final moments one encounters with the uncertainty and unstoppable path toward death. And that is where the Rambler, the character, seems to be, on the cusp of the afterlife, on his final road trip to the greatest uncertainty. And for the Rambler this is a purgatory more hellish than heavenly.
On the surface, The Rambler appears to be about the journey, but it’s not. The journey has already happened. The Rambler is about the journey’s end and nothing more, or so it seems.
Review by Gordon Shelly, special to Influx Magazine