August 3, 2002
Starring: Starring: Matthew Edison, Paul Brogren, Wayne Robson, Gary Oldman, Michael J. Fox, James Marsden, Melyssa Ade, John Bourgeois, Roz Michaels, Amy Stewart, Christopher Lloyd, Jonathon Whittaker, Mark Lutz, Krista Leis, Michael Rhoades, ,
Despite being the co-writer for a certain Delorian-related time-travel trilogy, Bob Gale had to fight tooth and nail to make his directorial debut with this wonderfully offbeat road movie.
Frustrated at being unable to make his first choice of film, Gale decided to write an offbeat character piece about a non-existent highway that hides some bizarre alternate realities, in the hope of attracting a big name cast that would allow the fickle studios to finally show an interest. That’s the handy thing about being part of the Back to the Future movies – you just call up all your actor friends and ask them to play parts in your movie. Thus for Interstate 60 we get a road movie with a mere $7 million budget and a cast that would make Paul Thomas Anderson weep. Michael J.Fox even took a break from retirement to do a cameo in the movie, and it’s easy to see why. Only Donnie Darko comes close in recent years to producing such an intelligent, original screenplay.
The film begins with Oldman’s mischievous genie O.W Grant being knocked off his bike in the street by an obnoxious executive (Fox) who makes an ill-advised wish and promptly gets squished by a truck. Meanwhile wannabe-arist Neal Oliver (Marsden) can’t decide whether to follow his father’s advice and train to be a lawyer, or stick with his art and hope it pays off. His life is turned upside down at his birthday party when Grant (geddit?) hears Neal’s wish that he wants ‘an answer’ to his life.
Neal is given a package to deliver along the non-existent Interstate 60, where he meets a whole host of bizarre characters (a girl looking for the perfect lay, a man who can’t stand lies), and is aided by a mysterious 8-ball that helps him make decisions. Delivering the package suddenly doesn’t seem so easy when the girl of his dreams (Smart) shows up on a series of billboards, leading him onwards. Torn by which path to follow, Neal finds himself in nightmare towns where lawyers control everything and cops hand out drugs freely. Will he make the deadline on time? Will he find the mysterious girl?
The limited budget occassionally shows, but only seems to add to the film’s charm, because the fun of Interstate 60 is in the wonderfully bonkers characters and unpredictable journey that Neal takes. The fact that this is such a little-seen film that bypassed a theatrical release, is baffling and frustrating. Even with a stella cast, Gale had a hard time selling the film to distributors because of its indefinable genre. “It’s too weird,” they said. “It’s not like any other movie we can easily compare it to.”
And this is a bad thing? Well it is if you’re a studio who wants something they can sell in a 30-second commercial and will make $100 million at the box office. So Interstate 60’s uniqueness is also its downfall. Thankfully, those that have seen it loved it (festival screenings have been a huge success) and as with Donnie Darko, its cult following seems to grow daily.
A short Behind the Scenes featurette highlights just how hard it was for Bob Gale to get his movie made, and has interviews with cast and crew who all rave about the screenplay that first attracted them to the project. An on-set featurette shows how the production designer dressed locations and sets within a limited budget, and best of all is the feature commentary with Gale and Marsden, who happily point out continuity errors and trivia (Gary Oldman threw a strop one day and lobbed a walkie-talkie out a moving car).
In summary, Interstate 60 is the very definition of an underrated gem. It has a great story, great characters and laugh-out-loud moments you’ll want to enjoy again and again.
Buy it. Buy it now.