Big Significant Things is the kind of polished, well acted and carefully observed little trifle that film festivals like Sundance and SXSW in Austin, Texas, love to discover and display on their way to one-week runs at the Film Forum. Admirable and respectable, it engages you while you’re watching it, then leaves you empty and wanting more.
BIG SIGNIFICANT THINGS ★★
Written and directed by: Bryan Reisberg
This curio, written and directed by a promising talent named Bryan Reisberg, centers on a 26-year-old guy from New Jersey (a terrific Harry Lloyd) on the verge of marriage who is supposed to be house-hunting with his fiancé in San Francisco in preparation for their wedding. Instead, he lies about a phony job delay and decides, as one last declaration of freedom before impending slavery, to set off on a cross-country road trip to see the bizarre structures, corny tourist traps and campy architectural marvels that were once such a fun part of America’s whimsical travel scene, but are now fading fast in a sad new digital age where everybody’s face is glued to impersonal mobile devices.
I’m not talking about the typical family vacation stuff like Mount Rushmore and Grant’s Tomb. I’m talking about the world’s tallest rocking chair in Gulfport, Miss. Grazing on junk food warmed up in motel microwaves, Bryan has himself a ball with no special itinerary in mind. The movie achieves immediacy with a soundtrack consisting mainly of the awful radio programming you get subjected to on America’s open highways, especially in the South, where they squeeze in Golden Oldies by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys between revival meetings that would make Elmer Gantry barf. The action revolves around the cracker-barrel characters Bryan meets along the way in roadhouses, gas stations and cafeterias serving 20 different colors of Jell-O.
While you’re at it, you also get to visit the world’s largest frying pan in South Carolina, and share a meal in a restaurant shaped like Aunt Jemima in Mobile, Ala., where you eat dinner under the skirt. And you get to discover Mr. Lloyd, an ingratiating, open-faced actor with an appealing air of naturalism and nary a believable instinct out of place. Unfortunately, the movie refrains from the same itinerary he does. It just pokes and palavers around like a kid kicking pebbles on a dusty railroad track. I can think of worse ways to stay out of the summer heat, but still.