A non-committal man-child debates the benefits of his on-again-off-again relationship in this Woody Allen knock off rom-com.
Miles To Go
Miles to Go is the feature film debut of writer/director/editor/star Quincy Rose in which he brings a personal touch to a similarly personal story, albeit one overrun—and at times completely weighed down—by its influences. The story follows Los Angeles-based writer Miles (Rose) who attempts to navigate and understand a renewed interest in on-again-off-again girlfriend Julia (Jen McPherson), a person who has brought stability to his life and allowed him to embrace his creative side. Is he really interested in her though or just enjoying the creative space he finds himself in when he’s with her? Is the relationship doomed to fail once again? Are all relationships meant to fail (as Miles often suggests)? These are the questions Miles constantly faces throughout the film and grapples with. And like his greatest influence (and godfather), Woody Allen, Rose tries to tackle these questions in a witty, neurotic and sometimes philosophical way. Ultimately, his efforts don’t click as well as his inspiration, adding up to pale imitation.
The story begins with Miles in a rut both creatively and romantically and trying desperately to reconnect with ex-girlfriend Julia. The problem in his plan is that they clearly do not work together. After trying with no success to get her on the phone Miles goes over to her house uninvited in an attempt to talk to her, instead they have sex only to immediately begin fighting afterwards which leads to Julia demanding Miles leave. Later Julia drunk dials Miles in an effort that goes nowhere. The next day she invites him out for coffee to apologize, embarrassed by what happened the night before. It’s from here that the two begin to casually renew their relationship letting it build to something more serious. Despite succeeding in what he set out to do, Miles is unsure if this is really what he wants or needs and so his self-destructive tendencies start to come around.
Later scenes in the film benefit from Rose finding a more unique voice, but the first half is greatly weighed down by a desire to replicate the feel of a classic Woody Allen romantic comedy. Rose’s performance comes across as a lesser Woody Allen impression—or what Woody Allen would be if he were a character on Portlandia. But while Allen’s personality is an essential element to his films, Rose’s lack of originality in the early stages of Miles to Go distracts from the story and the stronger elements of the film.
Miles to Go is also reminiscent of fellow neurotic comedian/writer/director Albert Brooks’ 1981 film Modern Romance, exploring a cyclical on-again-off-again romance and the self-destructive tendencies involved in such a relationship. Unfortunately, Rose’s debut mostly fails to impress due to its inability to come full circle and find its own balance. The comedic scenes either really hit or fall completely flat. The film brings up interesting dramatic conflicts and either abandons them or further “explores” them via poorly constructed and completely pointless scenes between Miles and his therapist, Lucy (Maggie Rowe). The therapist scenes superfluously discuss dramatic beats we’ve previously seen without adding any insight and effectively drag down the film draining what drama the film was building towards. Another issue with these scenes is how self-satisfying they are as Lucy constantly complements Miles for always being so funny and interesting. Combined with Rose’s over-reliance on his influences, the film nearly sinks early on but is able to finish strong thanks to its supporting cast and crew.
While Rose struggles as a director and the lead, McPherson excels and crafts an interesting, relatable and charming character over the course of the film. McPherson is so strong her presence is missed when she’s absent from scenes. She’s able to turn what at first seems like a very clichéd and rather thankless role into the best performance in the film and one of the biggest strengths the film has going for it. Outside of a lone dinner scene, McPherson only shares the screen with Rose’s Miles and it’s in these scenes that his performance and the film works best.
Rounding out the main supporting cast are Zack Tiegen as best friend Sydney and Toni Romano-Cohen as older sister Alexandra. Tiegen features in a few scenes spread out over the film and works his way from annoying to bearable and eventually to likable (much like the film itself). Initially a very one-note, almost misogynistic character who doesn’t really change or show that much depth, but he does fill the comedic best friend role more admirably as the film continues. One particular scene—between Miles and Sydney arguing over who is “the worst”—is among the funniest in the film. Romano-Cohen is only present in one scene, though we’re given some idea of her character thanks to several phones calls throughout the film, and she does a solid job as Miles’ depressed sister. Unfortunately the scene doesn’t add very much to the story.
On the technical side, cinematographer Amza Moglan really shines here in the way he’s able to bring an appropriately intimate and lived-in feel to the production. It doesn’t feel like most small-budget films that take advantage of rough handheld work to create an intimate environment, there are some wonderfully composed and executed shots in Moglan’s work here. A shot of Miles running is particularly beautiful as it travels with him. In addition to Moglan, Rose actually shows some of his strength as a filmmaker with his editing on the film. The two complement each other quite well here and Rose is able to keep scenes moving and more interesting with his editing.
Rose proves a filmmaker worth keeping an eye on, proving his ability to craft an interesting story and utilize collaborators. Hopefully he’s able hone these skills and develop his style and voice to the point that he’s not relying so heavily on his influences to fill in the gaps. These influences are important and help inform the good work Rose does in the film as well, but hopefully he can strike a better balance in the future.
Miles to Go is available on VOD April 28th.