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An Actor Prepares review – a road trip movie in need of direction

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Verdict: a worthwhile watch for fans of the road-trip comedy genre.

Directed by Steve Clark, An Actor Prepares is a fun father-son journey that delivers laughs but never quite reaches the emotional heights it aims for.

Unable to fly due to a heart attack, alcoholic actor, Atticus Smith (Jeremy Irons) embarks on a road trip with his estranged son, Adam (Jack Huston) in a desperate bid to make it to his daughter’s wedding in New York.

In terms of technical filmmaking, An Actor Prepares showcases admirable craft. It knows what type of film it is, and executes that. The film’s shots are well composed, each serving a purpose in terms of its style; it is tastefully scored; and the tone, somewhere between comedic and emotional, is consistent throughout.

The film also covers a variety of important themes, including failed relationships, health issues, and alcoholism which, combined with the aforementioned technical elements, should embed emotional undertones beneath the film’s comedic surface.

However, this isn’t quite the case. Whilst clear attempts at adding emotional value to the narrative are detectable, they are never quite executed; emotional impact is fairly minimal.

It is to be pointed out that this is not due to the film’s unarguably sound performances from Irons and Huston. Separately, the characters are well-constructed. Irons gives a charismatic performance as the equally charming and outrageous Atticus Smith, and Huston is equally entertaining as his son, Adam, a man built from pent-up frustration and bottled-up feelings. On top of this, the pair are great on screen together.

Yet emotional engagement with the characters’ journeys, both as a pair and individually, never goes below the surface. It is as though the film only hints at why the viewers should care as opposed to making it happen.

The main reason for this is the film’s structure. As mentioned, the film knows what it is and sticks to that. The nature of the road-trip structure no doubt takes viewers on a fun ride, as well as keeping the pace progressive. Viewers watch as father and son navigate their way through various settings, meeting different characters along the way; and they are never in one place long enough for the film to get repetitive.

However, the result of this is a series of comedic events that do encourage laughs but distract from the film’s relationship and story building. The film could, in fact, benefit from both more context and more consequence in terms of narrative – something to drive the story emotionally rather than just comedically. Yes, the characters are flawed and have obstacles to overcome, but it needs to feel as though something is genuinely at stake.

An Actor Prepares is like many films of its type: an extreme situation forces the film’s central characters to re-evaluate their priorities and they are taken on a journey of self-discovery. This isn’t to say it’s not entertaining, though. It is ultimately a fun and light-hearted road-trip movie that fans of the genre will not be disappointed by.

An Actor Prepares is released On Demand from 3rd September.

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