An ISLAND UNTO ITSELF
Beautiful cinematography isn't enough to save this indie about male friendship in the twilight years
Rated R • Opens Aug. 29
Look, I wanted to give Land Ho! a chance. I really did. Sure, it looked like just another movie obsessed with the lives and choices of straight white men — clearly a storyline that has never been explored in Hollywood! — but the trailer seemed like it might have something interesting to say about friendship in our later years.
And, to be fair, Land Ho! does have some positive attributes. It's a visually appealing film, with solid cinematography that gets a big boost from the gorgeous, highly photogenic geographical features of Iceland. The story follows boisterous surgeon Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) as he strong-arms his ex-brother-in-law Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) into going with him on a trip to Iceland, claiming that the excursion will boost Colin's spirits in light of his recent split from his second wife. The dialogue feels genuine, and there are a few genuinely funny scenes, including one in which a very drunk young bar-goer introduces Mitch and Colin to glowsticks.
But any goodwill I harbored toward the movie died as soon as Mitch started talking about women. There's a hint at what his attitude is from the beginning, when Mitch describes some of Iceland's positive attributes: "The hot springs, the juicy, fantastic lobsters, and the gorgeous broads." Sure, some casual objectification and sexism might be expected from an old white dude, but it gets downright uncomfortable when Colin and Mitch meet up with Mitch's 20-something first-cousin-once-removed, Ellen (Karrie Crouse), and her friend Janet (Elizabeth McKee). Mitch insists on lending them his credit card to buy clothes after their bags get lost, then gets upset when the clothes the women buy aren't sufficiently form-fitting. He makes gross objectifying comment after gross objectifying comment — and remember, Ellen is his relative. And it keeps on going, with Mitch trying to convince Colin that the young Janet is interested in him, Mitch describing women's asses in yoga pants far too graphically, Mitch making a list of female celebrities' best body parts.
The audience is meant to understand how gross this is — Ellen and Janet are visibly uncomfortable whenever Mitch says anything about their bodies — but it feels like nothing more than a lazy way to make Mitch complicated. It's as though the writers wrote a character sketch of a weed-smoking, outgoing mature man who's just retired and who doesn't speak to his family — and then said, "Oh hell, he should probably have some flaws ... let's make him a chauvinist pig!"
Colin is at least sympathetic, and both lead actors do their best to play the characters well. But they don't have much to work with, given how shallowly their characters are conceptualized in the script.
And again, the Iceland scenery shots are gorgeous — but if I want to appreciate the scenery, I'll watch an Icelandic nature documentary. And if I want to get a dose of sexist BS, I'll just go to the bar and field lewd comments from drunk old men there. At least there I might be able to get a free drink out of it.