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Four Lane Highway Reviews

Writer-director Dylan McCormick's time-tripping drama about an aimless Maine bartender on a mission to find out why his girlfriend left him abruptly two years earlier is one long, long, clichéd journey of self-discovery that focuses on four characters (one of whom gets very short shrift) who seem rather old to be working through post-collegiate angst. Sean (Fred Weller) tends bar and knocks around the rambling, university-town house he inherited from his father, a writer whose first novel, "Four Lane Highway," was such an enormous critical and popular success that he spent the rest of his life drowning in alcohol so as to avoid the risk of failing with his second. His roommate, the witty, alcoholic Lyle (Reg Rogers), is the self-loathing son of a captain of industry. Lyle and Sean have settled into a comfortable routine of getting hammered, picking up college girls and sleeping off hangovers, but Sean is still haunted by the one who got away. Artist Molly (Greer Goodman) fled the pressure of New York's art scene to teach in Maine; she and Sean lived together for some time, but he became increasingly resentful of her refusal to adopt his aimless lifestyle. She left him after an emotionally lacerating fight, packing up her stuff in the middle of the night while he slept off his most recent bender, and he hasn't heard from her since. It turns out that Molly has returned to New York, where she shares a bohemian apartment with actress Sasha (Elizabeth Rodriguez), who's hooked on one-night stands that fill her with self-disgust. By the time the film has worked its way to its appointed end, three of them have addressed their deepest fears — the fourth falls by the wayside — and face a slightly brighter future. If marginally less smug than Noah Baumbach's KICKING AND SCREAMING (1995), which revolved around an equally self-absorbed quartet of emotional retards, McCormick's film is just as trapped in juvenile navel-gazing: The fact that his characters are in their 30s only makes them more insufferable. McCormick's decision to cut constantly back and forth between the past and present is problematic because Molly, Sean and Lyle look exactly the same in both time frames; you're sometimes halfway through a scene before it becomes clear when it's taking place. And while Weller and Rogers turn in strong performances under trying circumstances, Goodman is dead weight and Rodriguez's Sasha gets such short shrift it's hard to figure out who she's supposed to be, other than the fourth corner of a story in which formal symmetry trumps emotional sense.