'An Actor Prepares': Film Review

Takes too long to get to its destination.
8/31/2018

Jeremy Irons and Jack Huston play an estranged father and son who reluctantly embark on a road trip together in Steve Clark's comedy-drama.

Steve Clark's comedy-drama raises many questions. Is every aging Hollywood matinee idol lecherous, drunken and obnoxious? Are all fathers and their grown sons estranged? Does every road trip movie have to be filled with quirky characters and colorful detours? Judging by An Actor Prepares and so many other movies of its ilk, the answer to all of these is yes.

Feeling schematic enough to have been generated by a computer screenwriting program, the film stars Jeremy Irons as, you guessed it, an aging matinee idol who's lecherous, drunken and obnoxious, and Jack Huston as, you guessed it, his estranged son. After Iron's character, Atticus, suffers a heart attack while receiving a lifetime achievement award, he and Adam are reluctantly reunited. They embark on a — what else? -— cross-country road trip to attend the wedding of Atticus' daughter (Mamie Gummer) because Atticus is declared unable to fly by his doctor. Neither hilarity nor drama ensues.

After playing so many serious and classic roles, Irons is clearly having a blast as the randy Atticus who comes on to every woman he meets, including his doctor, and drops trou at every opportunity. (This may be the most onscreen nudity the actor has done since Damage, and his bare ass should get its own screen credit.) Atticus, a three-time Oscar-winning actor whose extensive filmography also includes such items as Throwdown at Bitch River, is next slated to play the title role in a movie about God, although he's self-aware enough to admit that he's more suited for Satan. He's also consistently derogatory toward his son, at one point telling him, "You look like Osama bin Laden's nut sack."

The perpetually uptight Adam is a failed documentary filmmaker who now teaches a feminist-themed university film course. Throughout the proceedings, he's frequently seen making urgent phone calls to his urologist, which his wife (Megalyn Echikunwoke) angrily takes to mean that he's inquiring about a vasectomy.

Shortly after the beginning of the road trip on a medically equipped bus, Atticus hijacks the vehicle. Thus begins a series of picaresque episodes including an encounter with two female pagans and a shaman (Will Patton); Atticus' awkward reunion with an old flame; and he and Adam spending the night in a jail cell.

The screenplay co-written by Clark and Thomas Moffett attempts to derive much humor from Atticus' relentless debauchery, but it all feels pro forma and repetitive. Although his performance is undeniably entertaining at times, Irons is ultimately defeated by his character's cliched aspects which include revealing himself to be a (no spoiler alert) loving and proud father after all. Huston's natural charisma is given little chance to shine, with Adam being mainly reactive to his father's outrageousness. Ben Schwartz makes only a mild impression as Atticus' beleaguered manager, while Gummer and Matthew Modine (as a television talk show host) are wasted in thankless parts.

Production companies: Pandemic Film, Kew Media Group, 120db Films
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Cast: Jeremy Irons, Jack Huston, Ben Schwartz, Mamie Gummer, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Will Patton, Frankie Faison, Matthew Modine

Director: Steve Clark
Screenwriters: Steve Clark, Thomas Moffett

Producers: David M. Rosenthal, Steve Clark, Derrick Tsent, Tom Butterfield, Tom Lassally, Will Rowbotham
Executive producers: Stephen Hays, Peter Graham, Jamie Carmichael, Ellen Wright, Joseph R. Wright, David Knott, Mark Seelig

Director of photography: John Bailey
Editors: Meg Reticker, Anne McCabe

Composer: Tony Morales
Costume designer: Peggy Stamper

Casting: Jessica Kelly, Mary Vernieu

97 minutes