Saturday, June 11, 2011
I had seen Two-Lane Blacktop (TLB) many years ago and remembered it boring me to death. Either time has changed how I look at movies (entirely possible) OR the fact that I watched TLB in four sittings has made me change my mind (also entirely possible). It turned out to be a pretty entertaining movie with only one disappointment (besides the artsy/fartsy ending). In my mind, I remembered TLB as a car movie in the spirit of Vanishing Point or Gone In 60 Seconds (the original one NOT the one with Nic Cage, even though I'm a fan of Cage's). TLB is more in the vein of a character driven movie with cars, rather than an action driven car movie with characters. And that includes the fact that the cars in TLB can also be considered two of the main characters.
TLB's basic plot is about two guys - James Taylor as The Driver and Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys as The Mechanic (the characters don't have "real" names) - driving cross country and drag racing locals at each stop to earn their income. Along the way they pick up a girl hitchhiker (The Girl) and run into Warren Oates (GTO) who drives....you guessed it a GTO.
James Taylor and Dennis Wilson both prove very adequate in their respective roles with both, in my opinion, showing screen charisma. Either one could have gone on to do more movies and not embarrassed themselves as some musician/actors have wound up doing. The only unfortunate part of their being in TLB is the movie includes the powerhouse Warren Oates. He outshines not only Taylor and Wilson, but everyone else in the movie; not only because his role is more fully written, but also because he was such a damn fine actor. On top of that, he has my favorite line in the movie "I'll have a hamburger and an Alka-Seltzer".
One final thing, I noticed while watching TLB was attitudes toward people with long hair must have changed in the two years between the release of Easy Rider and TLB. Only once in the movie are James Taylor and Dennis Wilson asked if they're hippies. Everywhere else in the movie, long hairs mix with short haired and greasy haired characters with no one seeming to mind. The little that bit I have been around "car" guys, I would have to agree they're usually more interested in the car than the person behind the wheel.