47th Chicago Film Festival: ‘Take Me Home’ fairly formulaic but still refreshingly pleasant

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Take Me Home

Written and directed by Sam Jaeger

USA, 2011

It often seems that when it comes to film festivals, the name of the game seems to be depression. The highlights are stories that are less than uplifting, or at the very least darker tales.  When you’re being bombarded with this sort of thing on a daily basis, sometimes it’s nice to lighten things up a bit.

And Take Me Home does just that.

The story has the makings of a romantic comedy goldmine: a man, currently down on his luck, makes money by driving an illegal New York taxi, and meets a woman in a failing marriage, with whom he takes off on a cross-country road trip to California. Along the way they form a bond, etc.

No one ever said the story was original. If you’ve ever seen Sandra Bullock in anything, it’s likely you know where the whole thing is going. But even though there aren’t any surprises to be found, the meat of the tale has a little bit more to offer. In my interview with Take Me Home’s director/star Sam Jaeger, he talked about the film being a meditation on marriage, and this is apparent. On one side, you have your female lead who doubts her marriage, yet still believes in the sanctity of it. On the other, you have your male lead, who happens to be against the entire idea of it. Because of their views, they come to blows a number of times throughout the film, and in the process they actually manage to present the perils of a successful union. There’s the bickering and the disagreements, and the times where they don’t even want to look at each other. But at the end of the day, they can work through their differences to make their unlikely partnership work. It’s a nice touch in a fairly formulaic tale.

The chemistry between the two stars really drive this point home, and it certainly helps that they’re portrayed by an actual married couple (Jaeger and his wife, Amber). Of course, neither could be any more different, with Jaeger playing the witty clown to his wife’s straight man (or woman). But there’s such a sense of caring between them that we don’t really need a full-on explanation for why they never actually part ways, though there’s an overabundance of moments where they swear they’re going to do just that. It’s an unbelievable situation that manages to feel genuine thanks to their performances.

Helping them along the way is a plethora of appearances by some notable faces, including Victor Garber and Lin Shaye. Not all of them get an incredible amount to do, but all make the best of the time they have. Especially Shaye, who gives a wonderfully fun and batty performance.

During the interview, Jaeger stressed that he had a desire to actually shoot his film cross-country. He wanted to show as much of this nation as he could, and no one can say that he didn’t make a valiant effort. And some of the imagery that he does get is quite breathtaking. He especially manages to capture the vast space and open canyons of the desert quite well. Unfortunately, most of these places can only be seen through the window of a taxicab, and that isn’t always as awe-inspiring as it could be. It really leaves a hunger for more. Another mountain or two, or even a couple cityscapes could have helped stave it off.

But the lack of landscape doesn’t stop Take Me Home from being perfectly watchable. It doesn’t do anything new, and it isn’t the best the festival has to offer so far. But even so, it’s a nice excursion from the doom and gloom that encompasses other entries, and sometimes it’s nice to change it up.

William Bitterman

The Chicago Film Festival runs from October 6th-20th. Visit the festival’s official home page.

1 Comment
  1. LMP says

    It’s AMBER Jaeger…not Amanda! Please check IMDB!

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