Reminscent of Richard Linklater's SLACKER (1990) but funny enough to stand on its own, Jim Bihari's MY NEW ADVISOR makes being stranded in rural Ohio look like the most fun you can have with your ambition gone.
Burnt-out college student Mark Wheeler (Mark Ebert) is in consultation with his retiring faculty advisor when the old man collapses and dies. Cold-fusion researcher Vic Schlepper (Vince Vohnout) was present, trying to buy his colleague's vintage 1960 Buick Oldsmobile--even during the seizure--and
thus does Mark meet the flake assigned as his new faculty advisor. Mark gets a cross-country ride with the talkative Schlepper to a conference, and in the back seat of Vic's newly-acquired Buick is his hormonal teenage daughter Lisa (Amina Cain). She licks a hot cigarette lighter and pokes Mark
repeatedly with a stick (her father: "Sometimes you have to spoil a kid with a little luxury"), until Schlepper steps out to proudly arrange a picnic atop the vast trunk. Lisa floors the accelerator and leaves him behind. Also in the vicinity is a young "drifter/artist" (Jonathan Bernhardt), stuck
for two days because his '59 Pontiac Catalina has a flat. Mark, unwilling to continue with Lisa, joins the oddball in quest of a replacement tire. When the Buick overheats, Lisa blithely abandons it to a trio of rednecks who seem to do nothing but cruise around offering to buy other peoples'
vehicles. Schlepper hitches a ride with a would-be farmer accompanied by an inflatable plastic doll. Mark and the artist get the Pontiac running again, and Mark is dropped off at a diner, where he re-encounters Schlepper, and the two return to the Buick Olds with proper coolant. Lisa eventually
arrives at a boyfriend's farm, but Vic arrives just in time to casually pull her off him and toss her back in the car, and they resume their journey with Mark.
This 16mm effort reunites the cast and good-natured looseness of Bihari's debut feature I DIDN'T THINK YOU DIDN'T KNOW I WASN'T DEAD (1994); each was shot in the Columbus area on weekends, self-financed (this one at a cost of less than $20,000, through credit cards); each was self-distributed,
mainly to film festivals; and each centers on Bihari's offbeat observational humor. Lackadasiacally violating the rules of drama, MY NEW ADVISOR offers no momentous epiphanies, revelations or transformations, yet is often screamingly funny, as when a pair of brother-and-sister motorists (Carol
Ankenman, Chadwyk McGowan) find a discarded TV set on the curb, and react with childlike wonder to the roadside's bounty. Or the way the drifter/artist survives for two days off a bag of tacos tossed from a speeding car (the reptilophobe passenger thought she saw a snake in it). "To them, nothing
is out the ordinary," said Bihari. "From their perspective the happenings in mainstream films would seem mighty unrealistic." The result, if one is in the properly easygoing mindset, is fresh and clever, even granted some wobbly acting. Amina Cain, as the weird, rebellious daughter, is a standout,
however; she's like Frankie from "Member of the Wedding" gone wild. One of Bihari's own passions is classic 1955-1960 American automobiles, and his script indulgently dwells even on their innovative dashboard engineering features. End credits eulogize the Buick Olds, destroyed by an engine fire
following principle photography. (Profanity.)
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