Dir: William Monahan
Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Oscar Isaac, Walton Goggins, Mark Wahlberg, and Dania Ramirez
A24 / 93 Minutes
2.50 out of 5.00
MONTE YAZZIE ~ THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS ~ 1/27/16
Director William Monahan, well-known screenwriter for Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed”, takes us on a trip into the isolated and narcissistic world of a Hollywood star in his film “Mojave”. Set amidst the desolation of the Mojave Desert and the loneliness of Los Angeles, Monahan attempts to paint a noir-like portrait of Hollywood and the stars that slowly fade away into darkness. Assisted by a recognizable cast, the film somewhat gets this point across during brief, vague moments that offer a self-deprecating analysis of stardom. Unfortunately, the narrative is consistently overbearing and wanders unnecessarily in many places, making “Mojave” feel increasingly like all the B-movie characteristics it tries to avoid.
Thomas (Garrett Hedlund) is a famous Hollywood artist who is unhappy with his life. Anger and desperation lead him into the Mojave Desert, recklessly placing himself in a dangerous situation. Thomas becomes stranded, though it seems like an occurrence he was hoping would happen. Unexpectedly, a man named Jack (Oscar Isaac) approaches Thomas in the desert. The two men have a discussion that leads to an argument, leaving Thomas standing over the unconscious body of Jack. Thomas retreats to his mansion in Los Angeles but Jack isn’t far behind.
Jack’s arrival in the desert, a materialization of sorts, offers the first glimpse into the world Monahan is forming and what he is attempting to analyze through Thomas’ composition. It’s an interesting dynamic presented in the film that up to this point was simply a moody journey for a self-absorbed famous person. Thomas’ character presents the loneliness and separation from reality that his stardom has influenced but also the bleak nature of the world that encompasses his everyday life. In one scene, Thomas returns to his mansion that is filled with representations of his vanity; it’s not luxurious or welcoming but instead feels more like a tomb. Monahan fills many of the quieter scenes, when the two embattled characters aren’t waxing philosophically in heavily indulgent dialog, with interesting details. Unfortunately, these are never enough to change the meandering, many times confusing, tone.
Garrett Hedlund fits the role of Thomas quite well. Hedlund has a familiarity that makes him easy to watch but also composes the proper quirks and smirks that make him seem amused by his own ego. Oscar Isaac is a great actor; unfortunately here Isaac portrays an antagonist that doesn’t have the menace or intuition that the character should. Mark Wahlberg makes a brief appearance as the worst kind of Hollywood personality, yelling and cursing in silky clothing; Wahlberg is amusing, even though the role seems more like a distraction to the story. Walton Googins, recently in “The Hateful Eight”, also makes an awkward appearance as some kind of representation for Thomas. Googins puts a strange, mysterious touch on the character.What does it all mean, or represent, for Thomas? The answers are as unclear as the shadowy image that Thomas encounters in the desert. “Mojave” tries to be a suspenseful thriller, a stimulating noir, and a none-too-serious dark comedy; while these qualities are achieved in a few miniscule flashes of excellence, the remaining parts are a confusion of rambling them