Drunkboat is an insipid little film that I had stumbled upon (although 'tripped over' may be a more accurate phrase) purely by chance. I came across it at a bootleg DVD stand in Korea, and seeing that it had John Malkovich and John Goodman (two actors I greatly admire) in it, I thought I would give it a try. What a waste of two very talented actors. Despite the poorly written script and lackluster plot, both Malkovich and Goodman somehow still manage to deliver admirable performances, but it's something akin to listening to Vladimir Horowitz play on a Chinese-made piano.
Malkovich plays a recovering alcoholic/ex-writer who returns to his childhood home in the Chicago suburbs, occupied by his sister and adolescent nephew. The nephew, along with a friend, are goaded by maritime stories, mostly passed down by the nephew's older brother, and have extravagant plans of procuring a sailboat in which to travel the world in. John Goodman plays a scheming huckster, who in addition to dealing in bottles of ersatz Cutty Sark, also sells ramshackle boats. The boys, with the mother away, need Malkovich to sign the bill of sale, as they are both underage. Serving as 'bookends' to this simple story, is the boy's older brother, a drifter who has had run-ins with both Goodman's and Malkovich's characters. And well, that's about it.
Drunkboat is an independent film, directed and co-written by Bob Meyer, a little-known actor. It's his first and only attempt at directing/writing. I've often been drawn to independent films because they often tread 'unsafe' territory, and by 'unsafe' I mean a financial gamble for the films' producers. A well-made indie film can often present us with meaningful stories, offering insight into our own existence. Many of which end up badly, culminating in a non-Hollywood ending, so to speak. God forbid a movie should end sadly, so say the high priests of Hollywood. But there are a lot of really bad indie films, as well. These are usually the ones that seem satisfied with showing us the mundane parts of our own existence, that most of us know all too well, coupled with extraneous amounts of acoustic guitar music. Drunkboat does have a pretty good musical score actually. It's quirky and I liked it quite a bit. The film tries to be quirky in other ways, and seems pretty pleased with its failed attempt at quirkiness. The long, drawn out banter between Goodman and his business partner have a touch of writer's arrogance to it. But it's neither funny nor clever. And the camera's obsession with a highly disheveled Malkovich gets old very quickly. Malkovich has a fascinating face, but nearly every filmmaker who has used him exploits that feature, so it has little effect here.
My main qualm with Drunkboat is that it has nothing to say. At best, it makes attempts to comment on human struggles with alcohol, and dishonesty, but is very superficial in doing so. We never get much deeper beyond the surface. Combine that with a plot that is wholly uninteresting and it doesn't amount to much. If you happen to come across this film as I did, I hope your footwork is a bit more nimble than mine.