Cast: Eva Amurri, Anton Yelchin, Susan Sarandon
Extras: Featurettes, Deleted Scenes
Grace (Eva Amurri) has problems. She is a summer away from college, but has no way to pay for the additional education. Her mother Rhonda (Amurri's real life mom, Susan Sarandon) has taken advantage of Grace's credit by opening cards in her name and leaving her thousands of dollars in debt. Rhonda tells the family she has used the money to help Grace's younger sister Taylor (Willa Holland) become a model. Amongst the chaos, Grace befriends a co-worker named Dorian (Anton Yelchin). Dorian has arrived with his own set of issues and seems to have an odd plan to help Grace earn the $12,000 she needs for a higher education. His questionable approach allows the two to build upon their friendship and deal with their respective concerns in the coming of age teen drama 'Middle of Nowhere'.
'Middle of Nowhere' is the most average of average movies. It feels like bit of an 'Adventureland' knockoff that begins to morph into a low caliber version of 'The Wackness'. Unfortunately, 'Middle of Nowhere' never manages to find the vibe or humor that gave a pulse to those two films. This doesn't make the film bad, just average. Oddly enough, what seems to work for the film is a bit of odd marketing. The cover for the Blu-ray may lead people to believe that 'Middle of Nowhere' is a chick-flick. The front has snapshots of the main cast highlighted by the involvement of Susan Sarandon while the back reads like a coming of age teenage movie. When it is revealed how Grace plans to pay for college, I was genuinely surprised. I only wish the overall film could expand on my enthusiasm. First time Writer Michelle Morgan seems to have the pieces in place for a good story, but the execution is questionable. 'Middle of Nowhere' has enough going to keep a viewers interest, just not enough to merit repeated viewings.
The one area where 'Middle of Nowhere' does succeed well is acting. Naturally, Susan Sarandon's involvement adds star power and a touch of old school class to the film (even if a bit of nepotism helped pull her to the project). This movie belongs to the young leads though. Eva Amurri is determined as Grace. She emotes the stress a young woman would have in trying to balance a crazy life while still acknowledging her youthful side and eagerness to be involved with various social activities. Willa Holland doesn't simply rely on her natural beauty to coast through her role as Taylor. She is obviously a confused teenager who is forced to deal with her mother's aspirations to build her up as a successful model. The cornerstone and easily most likable character is Dorian. Played by Anton Yelchin (who many will recognize as Chekov from the 'Star Trek' reboot), Dorian has a certain warmth and enthusiasm about him that will continue to pull viewers in. Yelchin's charisma manages to place Dorian at the forefront of a movie that is really about Grace. No disrespect to his sci-fi flicks, but I would love to see Anton Yelchin in more roles like 'Middle of Nowhere' or 'Charlie Bartlett'.
Graced with a 1080p/AVC encoded transfer, 'Middle of Nowhere' has a transfer that falls flat. As the old saying goes, "Junk goes in, junk comes out". While that is no knock against the film, the low budget roots certainly hurt the presentation. Outdoor scenes, which typically thrive in high definition, never have the polished look one may expect from the format. Close-ups are soft as well. Flesh tones are consistent, but the facial details are never quite realized. Having been blown up from 16mm, 'Middle of Nowhere' has grain throughout the film. I am typically a fan of low budget roots, but they certainly contributed to a semi-distracting presentation on Blu-ray.
The audio track is less of an issue. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio does a decent job given the limitations of the film. Dialogue is at a good level and there is a surprising amount of rear activity for a drama. Ambient sound is built by adding background noise to outdoor scenes and music fills the sound field from time to time. It is a pleasant addition for a movie that many may assume to only utilize front speakers.
There are a few standard definition extra features on the disc as well. The first featurette is 'The Making of Middle of Nowhere' (25:03). One would anticipate a decent amount of behind the scenes footage from this featurette, but the focus seems to be more on interviews with cast and crew along with clips from the film. The participants do expand on the story a bit, which may be of interest to some. The disc also has 'Cast and Crew Interviews' (11:16), giving the feeling that the 'Making of' featurette is a missed opportunity. It is a bit redundant, but the cast and crew lean towards the experience rather than the story during these conversations. There are 'Deleted Scenes' (6:35) included which expand on the relationship between Dorian and Grace. It is obvious that the additional dialogue would ultimately hurt the pace of the movie, but it is nice to see some additional banter between the two leads. Rounding out the extra features is the Theatrical Trailer.
'Middle of Nowhere' is unbalanced and will ultimately leave viewers in the middle of nowhere. With great acting you'll be left with disappointing direction. With great audio the Blu-ray magnifies a disappointing video presentation. Even the extra features seem to be a bit askew. I believe Michelle Morgan has the makings as a decent writer, I'm not sure that John Stockwell was a good fit for her story. As uneven as 'Middle of Nowhere' is, I would recommend adding it to the lower end of your Netflix queue. A purchase would disappoint, but the film is worth a watch.