Truly Indie

A road movie that runs out of gas almost immediately after it gets started, "Backseat" is the sort of quirky indie feature that impresses at festivals but feels wan when experienced under real cinematic conditions. This portrait of two slacker buddies experiencing a series of misadventures while driving from New York to Montreal in order to meet actor Donald Sutherland -- don't ask -- demands excessive indulgence on the part of the viewer.

The typically immature, thirtysomething central characters are perpetually struggling actor Colton (Josh Alexander, who also wrote the screenplay) and his unemployed best friend, Ben (Rob Bogue), who is experiencing romantic problems with his girlfriend because of his inability to satisfy her desire for rougher sex.

The story's main source of tension stems from Colton's rash decision to smuggle a stash of cocaine through the border as a favor to another friend, resulting in predictably wacky complications. Among the odd characters the duo encounter on their journey are an underage convenience store clerk with whom Colton bonds after she shows him her gun; a stripper with the inevitable heart of gold; and a misfit who communicates only via text messaging.

Director Bruce Van Dusen is unable to provide a consistent tone to the proceedings, and the actors aren't charming enough to make their characters' eccentricities endearing rather than simply annoying. Although there are some amusing moments scattered throughout, like Colton's movie audition in which he unexpectedly drops trou, "Backseat" ultimately feels like a short journey filled with far too many annoying detours.