'The Outdoorsman': Film Review

Courtesy of Chris Abernathy
Can't find sparks for either campfires or romance.
11/2/2018

David Haskell's feature debut follows a man's misguided attempts to prove himself.

A deluded Angeleno tries to persuade the world that he's a masculine ideal in The Outdoorsman, a thin comedy that has as hard a time selling its love story as its hero does convincing publishers he's the next Jon Krakauer. Using its protagonist's daddy-issues-fueled quest mostly as a generic rom-com hurdle, the picture spends the bulk of its time pretending there's chemistry between star Brent Morin (Undateable) and Saturday Night Live's Sasheer Zamata, whose characters have nothing in common besides living in the same duplex. Theatrical prospects are very slim, though the familiar faces may lead to some clicks on streaming outlets.

The feature debut for both director David Haskell and screenwriter Ryan Dee Gilmour, Outdoorsman begins with a flashback offering thin justification for its hero's obsession: As a boy, Jason huddled outside his family's house as his parents wrecked their marriage indoors. "I'm never coming back inside," he swore, moments before relenting so he could sleep in his bed.

A couple of decades later, the aspiring writer has failed in attempts to master manly pursuits ranging from poker to MMA. He lies shamelessly about his wilderness experience as he pursues a book deal, somehow convincing an editor he can fight off a bear sans firearms. In truth, he's never spent a night in the wild — and his girlfriend Carol (Spencer Grammer) is done pretending to believe in his quests. She kicks him out, and he lands on the couch of boho-douchey bud Blake (Rick Glassman)

Meanwhile, Zamata's Mona (Blake's upstairs neighbor) suffers a different sort of vaguely unbelievable single-mindedness. The workaholic wants nothing in life but to become executive director of the firm she's at, but when the day comes, the promotion goes to a co-worker. So she throws a tantrum to get herself fired, and the film spends the next several scenes trying to convince us this clearly very competent woman can't feed herself, wash her clothes or find a date. Soon, the script has made her feeble enough that even Jason can teach her a thing or two.

No sooner has the movie maneuvered this badly matched pair into the first stages of dating than Carol comes back into the picture, with a booty call that exists here solely to make Mona jealous. What real-world women would fight over this doughy, unemployed poseur?

Very slightly more diverting than this limp love story is Jason's new friendship with Gerard (Rick Shapiro), a homeless man who claims to have been a Navy SEAL. Gerard sells himself to Jason as a personal trainer, and takes him out into the desert to put him through his paces. The role is silly and almost insulting, but Shapiro spikes it with a bit of I'm-better-than-this attitude. It doesn't take much to stand out in surroundings this bland.

Production company: Lunacy
Distributor: Glass House
Cast: Brent Morin, Sasheer Zamata, Spencer Grammer, Rick Glassman, Rick Shapiro
Director: David Haskell
Screenwriter: Ryan Dee Gilmour
Producers: Chris Abernathy, Barbara Healy
Executive producers: Harris McCabe, Stu Pollard
Director of photography: Lucas Gath
Production designer: Zachary Skoubis
Costume designer: Joanna David
Editor: Andrew Nackman
Composer: Conan Skyrme
Casting director: Scott David

89 minutes