Thunder Road

 

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A film by Jim Cummings which aims for a rare balance between the comic and the serious.

 
Thunder Road

Kendal Farr and Jim Cummings

  

The originality of this piece clearly stems from the fact that, despite fielding a full cast, it is essentially a one-man show. Indeed, it carries a highly unusual credit which declares at the close that it was “Written, directed and performed by Jim Cummings”. In point of fact, Cummings had a hand in the editing too and supplied the music.
Building on a short film that he had made earlier, Cummings starts this, his first feature, with a pre-credit sequence in which the camera slowly tracks in on police officer Jim Arnaud. This is the role played by Cummings and we are introduced to him at a funeral, that of his mother. In the absence of his siblings, he sets out to make an oration but quickly loses it, becoming emotional and at times incoherent. Furthermore, he had planned to play a tape of the Bruce Springsteen song ‘Thunder Road’, a favourite of his mother’s, and, when the tape machine fails to work, he attempts a dance to the rhythm of the song. What is apparent at once is that this scene is in some respects comic but also powered by a sense of genuine grief: whether on watching it you feel first amused and then touched or whether the one cancels out the other is perhaps a matter of personal taste.

 

As Thunder Road proceeds it knowingly seeks to retain that balance between pathos and comedy, but the humour is largely underplayed. That is the choice and Jim Arnaud emerges as a man near to becoming traumatised by events: not just the loss of his mother but the impact of a pending divorce (Jocelyn DeBoer plays his wife) and the discovery that the legal proceedings will involve a claim by her for sole custody of their young daughter, Crystal (Kendal Farr). Possibly Jim has never had confidence in himself: as his police colleague and best friend, Nate Lewis (Nican Robinson), is aware, Jim’s frequent claim that he is fine is a denial of the truth. Anger issues exist within Jim leading to outbreaks that even threaten his role in the police force and he can be his own worst enemy.

 

As this suggests, Thunder Road is a portrait of a man disintegrating, even if the process may ultimately be halted. As such, it could have been presented as a drama and, because this film never hides the pain and avoids sentimentality, one wonders if that approach would have been preferable. In taking a different route Cummings has created a film that may appeal more to some than to others (there’s a very good scene without any comic aspect when Jim visits his sister Morgan played by Chelsea Edmundson and an effective humorous one when a teacher gradually opens up to Jim about Crystal’s bad behaviour). Whatever one’s personal response, this is a film to be respected and, while it invites no close comparison with other films, I would say that this venture by Jim Cummings did remind me of the more offbeat pieces that Jim Carrey has undertaken from time to time.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr, Nican Robinson, Jocelyn DeBoer, Macon Blair, Chelsea Edmundson, Annies Leonard, Bill Wise.

 

Dir Jim Cummings, Pro Zack Parker, Natalie Metger and Ben Wiessner, Screenplay Jim Cummings, Ph Lowell A. Meyer, Pro Des Charlie Textor, Ed Brian Vannucci and Jim Cummings, Music Jim Cummings, Costumes Michaela Beach.

 

Vanishing Angle-Vertigo Films.
91 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 31 May 2019. Cert. 15.