Solid acting performances from every member of the cast. Campbell Scott is a director with a very good grasp of what he wants from the material he makes.
The movie was a tad ponderous at times and telegraphed emotions and upcoming scenes.
Arlene (Joan Allen) and Charley (Sam Elliot) live “off the map” in an almost desolate area of New Mexico with their maturing, 11 year old daughter Bo (Valentina de Angelis). One day William (Jim True-Frost), an IRS agent shows up and he’s struck ill by a bug bite. When he gets better, he realizes that he loves the way these people live their lives and he decides to move in with them. As life is never that simple, we see the effects that this has on not only Bo, but the all of the characters in this film.
Told from Bo’s perspective, both as an adult and as a little girl, director Campbell Scott has made the kind film that it seems Sundance was originally made to showcase. While I think that this movie could have easily lost 10 to 20 minutes somewhere on it’s 110 minute frame, I think that this tale of two different worlds colliding has been deftly told by a director and writer (Joan Ackermann) who strive to make films that deal head on with real emotions.
Commentary Track; “Anatomy of a Scene” and “Out There Now”
Campbell Scott does this commentary with screenwriter Joan Ackermann. They spend a lot of time talking about how this film was originally a play, why Scott wanted to make this movie and what they both were trying to achieve in specific scenes. Sundance Channel’s “Anatomy of a Scene” should have been called “anatomy of scenes.” This was a look at everything that goes into making one scene in a film. It primarily focused on the moment when William has an awakening about his life. The trick was how to express that without him saying it in the scene? Thus, they show how he was deeply affected by the New Mexico landscape. Lastly, “Out There Now” is a quick piece that ran on the Sundance Channel and it’s essentially an EPK for this film.
1.85:1 - Anamorphic Widescreen. Campbell Scott should make a western. With his deliberate, directorial pace mixed with how he made the desert look in this film, I can only imagine the kind western that might come from him. This movie looks awesome. He doesn’t call too much attention to the surroundings, rather he places the actors in such a way that we see that they can’t help but become a part of them. I have no idea what the budget was on this movie but just one look at it and you can tell that it all went on the screen.
English 5.1 (Dolby Digital). Mastered in High Definition. Subtitled in English. Close Captioned. Now for the bad part... this film plays a little too soft and quiet for me. Sometimes like in Lost In Translation, this really works for the film. Especially when they make it in a part of the world like Japan. For a movie that takes place in the desert, where there are sweeping vistas, Scott is to be credited for not fawning over them, but the audio delivered by the actors is so stylized that I think it ends up effecting the acting in a bad way.
This cover features all four of the main characters who make up this story, and another shot of them against a rolling landscape. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but one look at the cover and you can tell what it’s about. The back features a quote from Leonard Maltin, a description of the film, a “Special Features” listing, a cast list and technical specs. There are also 2 small photos from the movie. While I don’t think there is anything that great about this packaging, it will certainly appeal to fans of films like A River Runs Through It.
This is the kind of movie that lets you get lost in it’s thickly layered story. Sure, there were times when it was a bit too stylized for me (no doubt a product of Campbell Scott being too much in his own head at times), but I really liked that this movie seemed to keep the theatrical origins from where it started. By staying true to the fact that this story was initially a play, I think that that has really been what gives this film the resonance that it has. Also, it was really different to see someone like Sam Elliott play a vulnerable role as opposed to the tough customer’s he is known for. There was still some of that in here, but he really captured the persona of someone going through a deep depression.
Off The Map, while not anything we haven’t seen before, was an enlightening tale of a small group of people who come to realize just what they mean and represent to one another.
Off the Map was released September 5, 2003.