You might have heard the old Paul Simon song “Kodachrome,” a lyric inspired by the Kodak film, but now in the new similarly titled film that Netflix unleashes on Friday, it is a wholly different story altogether.
Kodachrome, which had its world premiere at last year’s Toronto Film Festival where the streamer won distribution rights, comes from writer Jonathan Tropper and director Mark Raso and finds itself at the crossroads of a world moving from analog to digital. But it transfers that notion to a very human and recognizable road-trip movie that becomes the final journey of an estranged father and son as they travel deep into Kansas to get the final rolls of Kodachrome film developed just as the last lab is ceasing that business.
That aspect of this fictional story is true. Tropper got the inspiration from a New York Times story detailing Kodak’s decision to cease making the iconic color slide film and the closing of the last lab that even developed it. Using that as a starting point, the writer — who was also responsible for another dysfunctional family relationship drama This Is Where I Leave You — centered the smart script on the efforts of Ben (Ed Harris), a world-class photojournalist who spent more time with his camera than his family and son Matt (Jason Sudeikis) but is trying to make amends now that he is dying. He hopes to get that son — a record company A&R exec with whom he hasn’t spoken in 10 years — to drive him all the way to Kansas in order to just get four rolls of Kodachrome film processed. Of course there is more to it on his part, but Matt resists the overture, which is delivered in person by Ben’s nurse Zooey (Elizabeth Olsen), until finally a much-needed business opportunity comes his way if he agrees to take Dad on the trip.
As they continue their journey, Matt begins to learn there are many roads not taken in life that are worth exploring. As I say in my video review (click the link above to watch), this is the kind of complex real-life family dynamic that many easily will be able to identify with. And it has been beautifully developed thanks to career-best work from Sudeikis, who shows he has dramatic chops to add to his already demonstrated comedic talents, and Harris, who simply is great as a quirky father trying to make up for lost time by using the only tool he really understands — film — as an excuse to get closer to his son before it is too late. Olsen’s appealing Zooey joins them on the trip in a red convertible, and we discover that she has her own family issues as she becomes a connection between father and son. This is one trip worth going on.
Toward the end of the final credits it says “Shot on 35MM Kodak Film, an obvious gesture to the increasingly besieged form that largely has given way to digital but still can’t be beat for quality. The irony is not lost on the fact that this movie that deals so nostalgically with the idea of film is premiering on Netflix (as well as some theaters on a limited basis). Hopefully they won’t cut the credits, which they have been doing for everything I have seen on the service. Even though if you act fast you can click on a box in the corner that say “Watch Credits,” it would be more appropriate to just let them run instead of promoting whatever unrelated show Netflix wants to push you into next.
Producers are Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Leon Clarance, EricRobinson, and Tropper.
Do you plan to see Kodachrome? Let us know what you think.