'Land Ho!' is better travelogue than drama
Iceland is beautiful.
Really, really, really - really - beautiful.
That pretty much sums up the new feature film Land Ho!
That message is the film's alpha and omega. Its raison d'être. Its soul and its being.
It's a visual treat, yet has little else to offer. Cowritten and codirected by Martha Stephens (Passenger Pigeons) and Aaron Katz (Cold Weather), Land Ho! is about two lonely sexagenarians who take a trip to that glorious land of effusive volcanism with its geysers and hot springs, hoping its unaðslegur (adj.: wonderful, delightful, extremely pleasing) vistas will take their minds off their troubles.
Earl Lynn Nelson stars as newly retired surgeon Mitch and Paul Eenhoorn as retired Australian-born banker Colin, who became friends a lifetime ago when they were married to two sisters.
Colin's wife died some years ago, and his most recent relationship has ended in bitter disappointment. Mitch's wife dumped him long ago. It's not hard to see why: Well-educated, smart and cultured, he nonetheless goes through life with the persona of a perpetually horny teenage redneck.
It's Mitch who dreams up the trip. The more affluent of the two, he insists on paying for everything, which means he also is pretty much in control of their itinerary.
An aggressive A-type personality, Mitch chain-smokes pot, delivers bawdy zingers, and chats endlessly about babes, girls, chicks, and ladies.
"We're getting our groove back," he tells a pair of fellow travelers, referring to the sextherapeutic effects of travel in the comedy How Stella Got Her Groove Back.
His bravado, tempered by a thick ganja haze, hides a creeping sense of doom: He had no intention of retiring, but was forced out.
"I always had something to do," he tells Colin ruefully.
Far more reserved, Colin is an introspective soul who seems content contemplating the Icelandic landscape. He's not fixated on finding sex, though he does happen upon a few sweet cuddles and a mini-romance.
The film's tedium is broken for a spell when Mitch's twenty-something cousin, Ellen (Karrie Crouse) and her friend, fellow graduate student Janet (Elizabeth McKee), take a break from their field work in Greenland to visit the boys in Reykjavík for a couple of days.
One wishes they had stayed for the remainder of the trip: Their energy and wit is sorely missed.
Land Ho! has little that passes for a narrative or character development. As drama, it lives or dies on the strength of Colin and Mitch's awkward verbal pas de deux.
As travelogue, however, it's a fantastic ride, taking the audience from hipster Reykjavík nightclubs to the little village of Skógar on a monstrous glacier, to the magnificent waterfall Gullfoss, the glacial lake Jökulsárlón, and lots of other sublimely gorgeous locales with names decorated by umlauts and other cute diacritical marks.
Land Ho! **1/2 (out of four stars)
Directed by Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens. With Earl Lynn Nelson, Paul Eenhoorn,
Karrie Crouse, Elizabeth McKee. Distributed
by Sony Pictures Classics.
Running time: 1 hour, 35 mins.
Parent's guide: R (language, sexual references and drug use).
Playing at: Ritz Bourse.