Marquette and Willis Elevate the Material in The Odd Way Home


A road movie in which Duncan (Chris Marquette), an autistic young man presented as lovable naïf, and Maya (Rumer Willis), an embattled but secretly tender young woman, embark on an improvised car trip, The Odd Way Home pulls its punches, so to speak, right from the start.

Moments after the opening credits, Maya is viciously beaten by her boyfriend, and the viewer is given to believe that this is the couple’s status quo. The next morning she quietly slips away in his truck, only a vague destination in mind.

That all occurs in the first five minutes, but it’s here that director that Rajeev Nirmalakhandan (who co-wrote the script with Jason Ronstadt) unintentionally reveals his surface take on his own material. Willis’s makeup is less evocative of someone who’s survived a vicious assault than it is of a model in one of those fashion layouts whose aesthetic is domestic violence chic. Superficiality and cliché mark the film’s notions of family, dysfunction, and even survival.

After making her way from L.A. to New Mexico, car trouble leads Maya to break into the home Duncan shares with his grandmother and steal the camper that he sleeps in. A few plot twists later, the duo are on the road, where detours into both their pasts turn up Brendan Sexton III (as a betrayed beau) and Veronica Cartwright (as a boozy harridan) in movie-stealing performances.

Willis’s performance is in prickly Julia Roberts–mode for much of the film, though she’s moving in the final act. Marquette, as he often has in his film and TV work, elevates some ghastly material, bringing a human touch to the script’s overripe yet hackneyed dialogue.