A cantankerous aging actor is forced to go on a road trip across America with his son, who he hasn’t spoken with for some 15 years, to reach his daughter’s wedding.
Jeremy Irons (“Red Sparrow“, “High-Rise“) plays Atticus, an actor who, after receiving his lifetime achievement award in which he berates award ceremonies and claims “there’s plenty of life left in the old dog yet”, promptly has a heart attack at the after party.
Atticus has been partying hard for many years, girls, booze, drugs, not necessarily in that order but always in large quantities.
He is hell bent on getting to his daughter’s wedding and being ready to take on his next starring role as god. However, the doctors inform him he can’t fly, and the studio aren’t convinced he can stay clean.
Atticus’s assistant Jimmy, Ben Schwartz (“Parks And Recreation (TV)”, “House Of Lies (TV)”), convinces him that the only way he’s going to get where he’s going is if his son Adam, Jack Huston (“Pride And Prejudice And Zombies“, “American Hustle”), takes him.
This is a problem. The two have barely spoken in 15 years, Atticus thinks Adam ratted him out to his ex-wife whilst Adam has grown up with an absent father and blames him for much. Adam is also waiting on some cancer test results but decides to keep that little nugget to himself, though it eats him up, and those around him.
An Actor Prepares is a father and son, road trip bonding movie at its core. There are laughs along the way, stunning scenery as the pair cross America, and some moving parts to boot.
Both Huston and Irons hold the film together, Irons plays the no-nonsense actor well, very well, though I would say we’ve seen this sort of role a few times, or ones similar, and some of those performances have been better. I’m thinking of the late, great John Hurt in That Good Night for instance.
Huston plays the exasperated son, angry at his father but most of the times he’s just exhausted at trying to deal with him. Sadly, Huston’s character also has the most infuriating moments of the movie when you’re ready to scream “just tell her already”, but, of course, he never does as that would spoil the pay-off later (that will make sense when you watch it).
Will Patton (“Armageddon”, “American Honey”) pops up as a shaman/guru type figure and Matthew Modine (“Full Metal Jacket”, “The Dark Knight Rises”) also makes an appearance as a talk-show host. Sadly, both are underused whilst some other scenes, such as Atticus visiting an old flame, feel superfluous in comparison.
All this may sound negative but An Actor Prepares is a good film with good performances and it’s well directed by Steve Clark (“Night Has Settled”, “The Last International Playboy”), who co-wrote with Thomas Moffett (“Shrink”, “The Last International Playboy”).
There are genuine funny moments and some poignant writing thrown in too. You just feel that it could have been funnier; some scenes, that seemed like they were really going to bring it home, get far too little screen time compared to others that don’t quite hit the mark.
Still, it’s good to see actors being given these sorts of roles, whereby they can run free, let their hair down and have some fun. Not quite Withnail & I but a good film nonetheless.