Cas & Dylan
I admit, I snickered at the idea of Jason Priestley directing a movie. It was uncharitable and short-sighted of me. I hadn’t done my homework to see that, while Cas & Dylan is his first “theatrical” narrative feature, Priestley has a directing career that stretches all the way back to his time on 90210. It’s mostly episodes of various television series and a few TV movies — although in the brave new world of Video-on-Demand releases that’s getting to be a harder line to draw than it used to be — but it’s there, and he’s actually pretty good at it.
The movie itself also seems, on paper, like it shouldn’t amount to much: an unlikely-pair road movie with a quirky young woman and a gruff older man, and with talk of suicide thrown in for the semblance of edginess. It does feel like a throwback to the sort of indie comedy that flooded the market fifteen years ago. That said, Jessie Gabe’s script manages to sidestep the worst mistakes of that style, and the material is elevated by a great pair of leads: Richard Dreyfuss still in fine form, and a pre-Orphan Black Tatiana Maslany.
The journey starts in Winnipeg, where Dr. Cas Pepper (Dreyfuss) feels like his life is grinding to a halt. When his dog dies, he decides to just head out west to Vancouver to die, but he runs into writer’s block trying to compose his suicide note outside the hospital where he worked. That’s where he meets Dylan Morgan (Maslany), who begs a ride home. But when Cas runs over Dylan’s angry and violent boyfriend they’re on the lam together.
Dylan could easily fall into the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype. She’s pointedly quirky, and she does work like a charm to lift Cas’ spirits and offer him a new perspective on what remains of his life. But that’s not her only purpose; she has her own arc as an aspiring writer, and she has as much to learn from Cas as he has from her. Gabe writes a much more balanced version of this character than we usually see, but it’s Maslany’s performance that really sells her as a real person even with this quirky, free-spirit side. The actress applies her protean talents to carefully transition away from the superficial side of the trope and bring out the deeper, more thoughtful character underneath. It’s a delicate move, but the writing, acting, and direction come together to show how to make this character more than just another fantasy object for a male lead.
Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.
This review also appears at Punch Drunk Critics.