Sundance 2014: “Rudderless” – Review by MovieManMenzel

welivefilm rudderless

William H. Macy proves that he not only has the magic in front of the camera, but behind it as well.

I have been a huge fan of William H. Macy as an actor for as long as I can remember. He is someone that I have always considered to be very talented and extremely underrated. When I first heard that he was making the jump from acting to directing, I was very excited and hoped that he would be as good a director as he is an actor. The question now must be asked: Is Macy a multi-talented guy with a boatload of talent, or is he someone who should simply just stick to acting?

Rudderless is a film that combines the power of music with losing someone that you love. Sam (Billy Crudup) learns that his son Josh has just died in a horrific university shooting. Unable to get past this tragic event, Sam decides to give up his advertising job and live a life of solitude on his boat. While attempting to cope with his loss, Sam discovers that his son wrote and recorded music. After feeling moved by the lyrics, Sam decides to head out to a bar where he performs a song in front of a huge crowd. The song grabs the attention of an aspiring young musician, named Quentin (Anton Yelchin), who attempts to form a bond with Sam. It isn’t long before the two of them become friends and inspire each other to form a rock n’ roll band of their own.

In the past year or two, there has been this huge influx of films that have focused on or around music. This year at Sundance, there have been at least four films which have dealt directly with music in some way. What makes Rudderless so good is not just the music, which is utterly amazing, but the story as well. Macy has crafted a film that decides to focus on school shootings in a creative and daring way.

There has been so many films about school shootings where the film itself focuses solely on the backlash of the community or how the family constantly blames each other for the death of their son. This film does tackle that issue, but instead of dwelling on it for 105 minutes, it decides that after 10 minutes it should switch gears. After the initial 10 minutes, Rudderless goes on to tell a story about a father who discovers things about his son that he never knew. It also becomes a tale of self-discovery, friendship, and the power of music.

Crudup is incredible as Sam. His range of emotion as an actor never ceases to amaze me, and I never knew he had that great of a voice. When he first takes to the stage to perform a song, I was stunned. Anton Yelchin plays the lovable kid who suffers from low self-esteem. I love the bond that Sam and Quentin share within the film, and after a while it almost feels like you are watching a father and son relationship unfold — which I believe is exactly what the film was going for. 

The music in Rudderless is simply spectacular. I think many of the songs that Rudderless plays within the film are great and I can’t remember the last time that I got out of a movie and wanted to instantly buy the soundtrack. The film’s best music numbers, however, are when Crudup sings alone at the bar. Without spoiling anything, the film concludes on a song that will bring tears to the eyes of many in the audience. It was emotionally powerful and I was blown away by it.

There are a few other things that I can go into about this film, but I don’t want to give away everything that this film deals with. I do have to say that Macy’s direction is top-notch and he really knows how to get the most out of his actors. His time behind the camera in this film showcased that he really wanted to tell this story, and he captured the emotion of all of these characters through their interactions as well as through songs. Macy is one talented guy, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for him.

In conclusion, Rudderless is a great film that deals with loss in a non-traditional manner. The performances are top-notch, the story is well crafted, and the music is incredible. I think Macy has a huge career ahead of him as not only an actor but a director as well. I can only hope that Rudderless gets a ton of attention when it premieres at Sundance and goes on to get the major release it deserves. Bravo to Macy, as well Crudup and Yelchin, for being a part of something that mixes great storytelling with great music.

MovieManMenzel’s final rating for Rudderless is an 8 out of 10.

Written by
Born in New Jersey, Scott "Movie Man" Menzel has been a film fanatic since he was three years old. Growing up, he watched as many movies as he could and was highly influenced by Tim Burton, John Hughes, Robert Zemeckis, and Steven Spielberg. Scott has an Associates Degree in Marketing, a Bachelors in Mass Media, Communications and a Masters in Electronic Media. He has been writing film reviews under the alias of MovieManMenzel since 2003 and started his writing career as a contributing critic at IMDB.com and Joblo.com. In 2009, Scott launched MovieManMenzel.com where he posted several of his film reviews but in 2011 decided to shut down the site when he launched We Live Film.com, which he founded. In 2015, We Live Film became We Live Entertainment. The domain name changed occurred after months of debate but was done so that he and his fellow staff members could write about anything and everything in the world of entertainment.

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