Ahhhh. The road trip film. A chance to connect. A chance to bond. Usually an all around good time right? Not this time. Lucky thing for Lawrence and Kevin, there's only the two of them journeying around in their rented Fiat... oh wait. There does happen to be another. Their father Elijah... who happens to be deceased. "Elijah's Ashes" follows this dysfunctional duo as they attempt to fulfill their father's dying wish. To be buried alongside his ex-wife, who happens to be quite a distance away. What follows is more-less exactly what you'd expect from this type of film. Some over-the-top silly situations. Some comedic scenarios, that just happen to take place during their adventure, and a giant helping of politically incorrect dialog between two guys - who, if not for being brothers, would clearly not have been friends. At all. "Elijah's Ashes" is a road trip movie. You're either into the genre or you're not. It's that simple.
Writer, director Ryan Barton-Grimley, and co-writer Ari Schneider had some fun real with this film. Or so it seems. Pretty much any, and every, stereotypical gay cliche presents itself at some point during this movie. From the notion that gay people will have sex with anything or anyone, straight through to a person being turned gay by another individual - or series of gay situations. The cliche mentality did make for a few jokes here and there, but to be honest... felt a little dated at times. In today's world, people don't all subscribe to the notion that every gay man is a pedophile, or suffers from necrophilia. Sure. There will always be those ignorant people in the world. However, saying such things is more of an insult rather than true belief. Same for the jokes. It's all been heard before and simply doesn't always cut it for shock jokes. I can't deny "Elijah's Ashes" uses this old school thought process to it's complete advantage, creating some truly off-beat comedy when it works. It just doesn't always work, and it would have been great to see something new. A new form of homophobic or insulting dialog, or visual gags and situations. Something fresh for a tired film genre. I also found that by the time the film was done, it was almost as if the journey was for nothing. Save maybe some laughs. "Elijah's Ashes" sets itself up to be a feel-good film with an old school happy ending attached. That's not really the case. The bonding elements between the two brothers never really happen. Not all that much anyhow. In many respects, the movie ended with the characters worse off than they started. As for the brotherly bonding? Maybe a little... but just a little and no more. This film is all about the jokes and running gags along the way. Any moral to the story is small, and left to the viewer to think upon. This isn't really all that bad, since a person actually expects to just laugh at films like this. Anyone looking for a little more however, may feel a little let down.
Production wise, this was a pretty decent looking film. Yes, a few shots felt slightly off in one form or another, and maybe a time or two the edit felt a little loose, but these were infrequent and really not even worth writing about. "Elijah's Ashes" was definitely better than a lot of lower budget, indie films, and played quite nicely on my screen. The writing, especially the comedic elements, was spot-on and funny for the most part. In a grade school kind of way - that happens to be exactly the type of comedy I like. Our two leading men, Ari Schneider and Ryan Barton-Grimley himself, did a great job playing essentially estranged... and different brothers. Their lines came across as believable, well... as believable as could be expected considering the portrayed personalities. This is a film you know is meant to be a joke. This means the characters are supposed to be off-the-wall at times. Bottom line? They did great and yes, I did laugh quite a bit. So what's the quick version in regards to production quality? Very nice work overall. I had some fun with this film and never once groaned about it being an indie.
In the end, as I wrote above, I did have some fun watching this movie. "Elijah's Ashes" made it easy to sit back and have a few laughs. Perhaps it's worst quality is also it's best, truest testament to real life. I wrote that the characters in the film, by the end, were in many respects worse off than when the film started. I wasn't a fan of that. However, this could also be considered a great way to close things off in a realistic way. Real life can be a crappy, complicated messed up ordeal. Sometimes we do things that don't play out as we hope. Sometimes things do end up worse. Happy endings don't happen all the time. So let me remove the less than happy elements and simply write this. As a funny entertaining film? "Elijah's Ashes" fills the bill nicely. I was entertained. I did laugh. So what's not to like? Ryan Barton-Grimley and his cast and crew deliver a great comedy. At the end of the day, that's all that matters.
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