Netflix’s latest original movie comes with a disclaimer warning that it contains product placement. With the title being the brand name of a type of Kodak film, and a proud declaration that it was shot on Kodak 35mm, one could argue the entire venture is product placement. But this gently amusing, sometimes affecting road trip drama is much more than that. It’s a tribute to the famous, now defunct Kodachrome itself, to the golden age of film photography and to the pursuit of great art.
Based on a New York Times article about the world’s last processor of the eponymous film in Kansas, the story is set in 2010, when time was finally up for Kodachrome users. This real-life pilgrimage gives the story its quest aspect, but along the way it’s more interested in Ed Harris’ (fictional) dying photographer Ben trying to reconcile with his estranged son Matt (Jason Sudeikis). Along for the ride is nurse/personal assistant Zooey, played by a winningly natural Elizabeth Olsen, who inevitably winds up as a love interest for Matt.
Sudeikis does a decent job anchoring the material as the angry, rejected son, continuing his transition from comedic actor to dependable dramatic performer. Harris is electric though as the irascible, brutally honest Ben. With nothing left to lose, he’s not worried about speaking his mind – with funny, embarrassing and anger-inducing results. Embracing the hipster trappings of its subject matter, there’s also room for obscure indie songs on vinyl and a crappy old convertible to cross the country in.
Feeling like a well-cast TV movie, the emotional beats and plot developments are all rather predictable, but there’s a strong, emotional finale. With consummate performances from the three leads, Kodachrome is as much about regret, forgiveness and bravery as it is about photography.
CAST: Ed Harris, Jason Sudeikis, Elizabeth Olsen
DIRECTOR: Mark Raso
WRITERS: Jonathan Tropper (screenplay), A.G. Sulzberger (based upon an article by)
SYNOPSIS: A record company exec joins his estranged dad, a famous photographer who’s dying, on a road trip to the last lab still developing Kodachrome film.