Sherman’s Way Dir. Craig Saavedra

[International Film Circuit; 2009]

Directed by Craig Saavedra, Sherman's Way follows Sherman (Michael Schulman), an uptight Yale law student, who finds himself partnered with Palmer (James LeGros), a freewheeling slacker still resting on laurels (almost) earned in the 1983 Olympics. Like many of the relationships and scenarios in the movie, it's up to you whether you find this friendship either unlikely or painfully predictable.

Sherman travels with the oddball Palmer to Southern California for a job opportunity, during which the narrative takes the two into romantic, dangerous, and redemptive situations. Indeed, from the moment Sherman's ex-girlfriend says "Sherman, you never do anything spontaneous," you know exactly what the next hour and a half will hold. But if the first 20 minutes doesn't sound derivative to you, then you might be won over by the film's simple-hearted eagerness to please.

Or you'll at least be won over by Palmer, who, once the movie stops trying to signal his eccentricity and free-spiritedness at every opportunity, becomes a shaggy, avuncular figure whose easy charm redeems the film. Sherman, unfortunately, remains insufferable throughout the film -- even after his transformation. It's a testament to Palmer's magnetism that, despite his story occupying only a tenth of the screen-time of Sherman's, he's as equally memorable as the subject of the movie.

Still, both Palmer and Sherman (although outlandishly dweeby throughout the movie) have none of the distinctive neuroses or quirks that would make them or the movie feel precious. Many recent coming-of-age movies have a hard time being sentimental without exposing its sentimentality through exaggeration. It's clear that Sherman's Way feels this pressure -- the first scene with Sherman makes a big deal about his cat on a leash, among other ostentatiously quirky affects -- but the movie eventually calms down and lets its characters be sentimental and corny, without asking to be congratulated for being sentimental and corny.

In the end, however, Sherman’s Way is a very middle-of-the-road kind of movie. And for a movie that uses the open-road as a way to evoke transformation through unexpected situations, that's definitely not the most desirable description.

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