If you were someone hoping for something a tad more substantial from Zach Gayne’s States, you’ll be sadly underwhelmed. Whilst there are some great scenic shots, likeable twenty-something characters, and talented actors, there is nothing substantive about the film to write home about.
The film takes a handful of unappealing quirky characters off on an intolerable road trip through the American Southwest. There is little about the film, other than the scenic shots, that makes one want to see where these characters end up. The filmmaker, based on the way the stories are presented, doesn’t seem to have any regrets dragging us from place to place on this road trip.
Written, directed, and featuring Gayne, the film stars Jeremy O. Harris, Alex Essoe, Michael Wieck, Jasmin Kaset, Makenzie Green, and D.C. Paul. People familiar with Essoe’s work will undoubtedly recall her playing Wendy Torrance in the 2019 film Doctor Sleep. Her character was originated by Shelley Duvall for the 1980 film The Shining. Unlike that seen with Doctor Sleep, the actress’s talent isn’t properly utilised.
States opens with what is arguably the most detestable character in the entire production. In the IMDb cast list for the film, he is merely referenced as “The Man From Michigan” (Michael Wieck). This Michiganian, not typical of the people from that state, wakes in a Mexican border town. He’s a blackout drunk with no understanding of his tolerance (or lack thereof) for alcohol. What is wrong with this guy? He literally asks the first local he meets to smuggle him back across the United States-Mexico border.
The Michiganian promises to cover the guy’s expenses if he takes him across the border. Mexican fellow, having crossed the border, takes his passenger all the way to Dallas. If you have a passing familiarity with American geography, you’ll know Dallas is approximately 930 miles from the border. The Michiganian flees from his kindly driver without even giving him as much as a dime. Surprised, you shouldn’t be. This guy is a real jerk.
Later, we see the Michiganian sleeping with his head against a Greyhound bus window. He has arrived at the Austin Greyhound station. There is nothing endearing about this character.
Soon thereafter, we meet Rachel (Rachel Cederberg). Whilst the actress herself has some obvious smarts, the Rachel she plays in this film is nothing like her. Her character is as dim as a broken lightbulb. Rachels journey, from Texas to New Mexico, isn’t inspiring.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, we find self-obsessed actress Grace Genet (Alex Essoe) trying to take advantage of aspiring screenplay writer Frankie Hart (Robbie Bruens). Hart, and Uber driver, is in the unfortunate position of driving her to where she needs to go. If the Los Angeles scenes didn’t want to make you switch off, the Las Vegas-based poet Simon (Jeremy O. Harris) might make you wish you had selected a different film. Simon’s apparent respect for all beliefs is tested when he crosses paths with Jaz (Jasmin Kaset) and Kenz (Makenzie Green). Jaz and Kenz make me think of the worst kind of Christians imaginable. These are the type of people, even though sexual orientation has nothing to do with religious belief, want to pray away the gay.
The only redeeming feature of this entire production, as previously intimated, is the scenic views. The Southwest has some seriously wonderful locations one can enjoy. It’s unfortunate that these locations were used for such a dreadful film.