film reel image

film reel image

Thursday, March 31, 2016

8th Annual River Bend Film Festival Feature Film-The Flying Dutchmen 2015 * * 1/2 Stars

The Flying DutchmenDirector: Kendal Miller
Year: 2015
Rated NR
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Jonathan Helmuth, Daryl Zook

I wasn't expecting a comedic romp when I attended the documentary, The Flying Dutchmen. I have to admit, I wanted to view more scenery. I wanted some more revelations. But here it is, a commencing fortysomething and a gruff father figure barreling down America's desolate roads. They joke around, they playfully bicker, and they somewhat reflect. Ultimately, they provide the audience with a slight level of tedium. I initially thought of "Dutchmen" as a mixture of Easy Rider, The Straight Story, and A Walk in the Woods. But because the two subject's motorcycle constantly breaks down while they bring the film to a "screeching" halt (with prolonged humor), The Flying Dutchmen doesn't "fly", it sort of sputters along.

Helmed by Kendal Miller in the anti-documentary style (there are no interviews or confessionals, that's a good thing) and featuring the obligatory, documentary score (lots of gentle, strumming guitar), "Dutchmen" gives us two main characters playing themselves, garnering admirable acting chops, and appearing very natural on screen (Jonathan Helmuth and Daryl Zook). You see these guys are traveling by way of an experimental chopper. Jonathan lost his dad earlier to pancreatic cancer. Daryl has a bad eye condition. Together they venture from Michigan to Oregon, stopping at various bed and breakfast places and receiving meager directions from local denizens. The flick chronicles their journey, their release from everyday life.

Now for what it's worth, Matthew Jeppsen's cinematography here is bang-up when it wants to be (which is not all that often), "Dutchmen's" final shot is a beauty (The Beaver State showcasing rock formations in the Pacific Ocean), and the beginning/end titles are put in quite nicely. Bottom line though: The Flying Dutchmen would rather grace us with its goofy amusement, its tendency to come to a standstill when John and Daryl's transportation seems to persistently break down. Their outcome despite certain setbacks, is in a word, predictable. Also, the constant closeups (of the cast) by director Miller are overdone. And although I get the message these two men are conveying, I wanted more of a road movie. I didn't want the humdrum, the sparse footage of bike riding, and limited sightings of Wyoming (ha-ha).

On an impulse, I attended a screening for "Dutchmen" at the 8th Annual River Bend Film Festival. During the Q & A for star Jonathan Helmuth, he said it was hard for him to watch it for the first time (clear through) with people he knew in the audience. I don't blame you Mr. Helmuth. Agreeing with your subtle statements at said Q & A, I would've thought there were some faint missteps in The Flying Dutchmen as well. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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