Boundaries feels like the kind of film your parents would go see and recommend to you as being “really sweet and cute”. Boundaries, directed by Shana Feste, does have its moments of being sweet and cute, but it’s mixed into a subpar, inconsistent road trip comedy that isn’t very memorable. The only memorable highlights of the film are the performances by Vera Farmiga and Christopher Plummer, who I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets some awards consideration later on in the year for his performance. Other than that, Boundaries is pretty forgettable, and this one can probably be caught on HBO if you’re really dying to see this film.
Farmiga plays Laura, a single mother living in Seattle with her son Henry (Lewis MacDougall) and a house full of pets. Laura has a complicated relationship with her father (Christopher Plummer), who’s being kicked out of his retirement home and needs to head to Los Angeles to live with his other daughter (Kristen Schaal). On the road trip, they run into a series of interesting characters as Plummer uses the trip as a opprotunity to reignite his weed-dealing business.
Feste directs a screenplay that she wrote, and there are some genuinely charming moments in this film. The only problem is that many of the jokes and setups for those said jokes fall very flat that it’s hard for the film to keep riding off of its charm alone. Now, as I mentioned earlier, there are some genuinely great performances. Christopher Plummer gives maybe his best performance since his Oscar-winning turn in Beginners, and as I said earlier I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets some awards talk for this film later on in the year. And Farmiga is really great in the film too, maybe her best screen work since Up in the Air all those years ago.
But then there’s just some gags and scenes in the film that don’t really go anywhere. Christopher Lloyd shows up briefly as an old friend of Plummer’s character and those jokes and that sequence fell really flat for me. The rest of the crowd seemed to really dig it, but I wasn’t biting. And Bobby Cannavale, an actor that I adore and have for years, feels wasted in this film as the deadbeat father to Henry and the ex-husband to Laura. Cannavale does a good job given the material, but there just isn’t much for him to do in the film. And Kristen Schaal, another actor that I adore, feels wasted in her talent with this film and the material given to her.
Now there are some really fun bit parts in this film. For a brief scene, Peter Fonda shows up as an old client of Christopher Plummer, and watching the two of them in this film is just a blast to watch, even if it was very, very brief. It made me want to watch a road trip film with just these two characters, telling stories of the good old days and so on. We don’t see Fonda a whole lot nowadays in movies, so it’s always a delight to see him. Also, it’s a reminder that Fonda has been in far better road trip movies (Easy Rider) in the past.
Boundaries is nothing really worth writing home about (which is weird because isn’t that exactly what I’m doing right now?), but it’s fine. The performances are good, and there’s one or two sequences that are funny and it does have its charming moments. As I said at the top, if you feel like you have to catch this film, you’d be safe catching it on HBO in a year or renting it when it’s at the Redbox. There are far better films playing at this festival, so if you didn’t catch the world premiere of it the other night, don’t sweat it too much.