While Frank Langella shines in this indie, the rest of the film can’t seem to find its footing and is more underwhelming than anything else.
A dysfunctional family drama centered on the central character and his road trip to Oregon for an assisted suicide? Well…that’s not exactly something you see everyday, or ever. But in Joel David Moore’s second feature film, that’s exactly what we’re watching. And for the most part, it’s not a bad experience. Not every beat hits its mark, a few of the performances underwhelm, and a lot of moments can feel very forced, but you almost forget all of that when you watch Frank Langella dominate the screen.
Raymond Engersol is married, has two children who are both successful, and a couple of grandchildren. Up to this point, it’s safe to say he’s lived a good and full life. Suffering a heart attack a couple of years ago, he and his wife Estelle (Mary Kay Place) have been living with their daughter Kate (Christina Applegate) and her husband Brian (Billy Crudup). Things haven’t exactly been smooth sailing, as Ray can be a bit of a grump and all Brian wants is his life back the way it was before his in-laws intruded on his marriage and family. Luckily for Brian, he may end up getting his wish as Ray (at a birthday dinner with his family) announces that he’s decided to take his life with assistance of a doctor.
Ray’s plan is to have a complete stranger drive him to his birthplace of Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal as long as you’re eligible for it. Kate, trying her hardest to talk her father out of it, realizes he won’t budge and decides she’s going to be the one to drive him out to Oregon. Only some bizarre, forced plot device involving her daughter Annie (Nicola Peltz) prevents Kate from driving Ray out to Oregon. So instead, Brian reluctantly volunteers to take the road trip with Ray and Estelle. Brian expects that Ray will change his mind after driving through a couple of states, but that hardly ends up being the case at all.
It’s no surprise that Frank Langella is the best part of this movie, as he’s typically one of the best parts of any movie that he stars in. His presence alone demands your attention and in his role as Ray, he makes an otherwise unlikeable character someone who you can feel for and relate to. Crudup and Place spend a majority of their time on screen alongside Langella and for the most part do an admirable job of holding their own. But for the rest of the cast, they’re not given nearly as much to work with and their performances suffer because of the lackluster writing.
With Youth in Oregon, it appears that Moore and screenwriter Andrew Eisen want to tackle family drama, euthanasia, and sexuality with a balance of comedy and drama. And at some points throughout the film, it’s entertaining and it works. For the most part that’s hardly the case and a lot of the story and secondary plots feel as if they don’t belong. That’s not to say that Langella’s performance is completely wasted on an underwhelming indie film, but he definitely deserved a bit better.
Youth in Oregon is directed by Joel David Moore, written by Andrew Eisen, and stars Frank Langella, Billy Crudup, Christina Applegate, Nicola Peltz, Josh Lucas, Mary Kay Place, and Alex Shaffer. Youth in Oregon has not been given a release date at this time.
We screened the film at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.