To an extent, Linas Phillips has already made this movie as the 2006 documentary Walking to Werner. Now, instead of hoofing it from Seattle to L.A., he drives a chopped VW microbus from Seattle to Boston. Again he meets friendly kooks along the way; again he wonders what the hell he's doing with his life; again the journey is some kind of personal process for the guy. Before, his trek was a chronicle of becoming a filmmaker, like his idol, Werner Herzog. Here Phillips embeds himself as an actor in a semi-fictional quest—but for what, exactly? Enlightenment, love, the next step in a sustainable filmmaking career? The character of Linas is a loser who can't move beyond wedding videos, couch surfing, and tending alpacas. ("Tell me you love me," he whispers to the latter, who are quite cute.) He invites us to share in the self-reproach, yet his odyssey isn't an entirely therapeutic wallow. The oddballs he meets make him feel better about his life; they have more or less love than he, families intact and sundered. Half the cast is credited with co-writing Bass Ackwards, which has an amiable, improvised, ramshackle feel. Linas is earnest and non-judgmental; if he's a screw-up himself, he's generously disposed toward others' failings. But as his actual father asks by phone, "Do you have any kind of a game plan?" The same question applies to Phillips' movie.
Phillips and his shortbus.
Runs at Northwest Film Forum, Sat., June 12–Thurs., June 17. Not rated. 103 minutes.