In case you hadn’t heard, Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland has been available to stream on Hulu since last Friday — a date that I made sure to write in my calendar after I let First Cow flee from me. After watching it, I realize that one of the key components, though perhaps not actually required, of road trips are the bizarre faces and crevices in deserted towns. Nomadland‘s fantastical blurring of reality’s outskirts is a memento to the traveler’s fever-induced psyche and suspended belief that these places can be real and fake at once.
Filmed during the pandemic, Kerry Mondragon creates his own road-trip fog machine with Tyger Tyger. Named after the William Blake poem, the film is a double-whopper statement about the defeats in addiction and purposeful adventuring. Blake (Sam Quartin), who is diagnosed with a transmissible disease, robs a pharmacy’s supply of a life-saving medication. Instead of helping herself to the doses, she wants to go into the Free City and be able to find the right distributor to get the medication into the hands that need it the most. During the heist, she meets drug addict Luke (Dylan Sprouse) and forces to switch clothes with him after he failed to escape the store. But affected by some resemblance of a person’s essence, she comes find him again and asks to see if he’d like to come along.
Any structural narrative ends here. From this point on, it’s easy to opine under negative assumptions. Sprouse, who has made career choices ranging from somewhat interesting to somewhat predictable of a faded Disney star, leads the budding troupe of nepotism (offspring of Michael Madsen and Josh Brolin are featured characters) and not-quite actors (his model-girlfriend Barbara Palvin). Though complaining about actors-by-pedigree doesn’t really make for a relevant argument if the standards were met, having the only main POC character be a mute character tastes like dust. The film substitutes dialogue with a suffocating repetition that may be akin to an addict’s perspective, but also leaves a dearth of logic and interest at the halfway point.
All the same, and in the most non-derogatory way, Tyger Tyger would have been something I’d have been into when I was in high school. It’s almost like a crossover between Wristcutters: A Love Story and Hunter S. Thompson was given the edgy-CW treatment, and I could sorta kinda almost see how someone could live for this. Some of the imagery, whether it’s some niche banana-monkey store and neon-lit loneliness, could have made for introspection. Unbelievably, the ending has some sort of catharsis that feels over-deserved, but if you’re looking for the next oasis after Frances McDormand’s performance of squatting, posing next to a life-sized dinosaur model, and squirming over a alligator, I suggest skipping this exit.
dir. Kerry Mondragon
Now available on digital and VOD
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