Desperate times call for desperate measures as entertainment manager Arsène is going to make his client, Franky, a star even if it kills him. Which it just might as Arsène drags both Franky and himself up to the Arctic Circle during a film festival in hopes of meeting with a legendary American filmmaker. With this last desperate attempt, Franky may just become famous after all but it might end up being for the crimes he becomes an accomplice to on this bizarre road trip.
Thanks to the increase of gas prices (or petrol, if you prefer) and the world now being connected in every facet possible, road trips are not something people participate in anymore. It was once considered a great American tradition but now it's nothing more than a fading memory. With that, filmmakers interest in making a road trip movies are also fading. Except for French writers and directors Oliver Babinet and Fred Kihn with their feature film debut "Robert Mitchum Is Dead".
The film follows entertainment manager Arsène (played by Oliver Gourmet) and his desperation to get his client Franky some work. Arsène is so desperate that he even steals a car, unbeknownst to Franky, and takes the young man up to the Arctic Circle in order to meet a legendary American filmmaker who will be present at a film festival. In hopes of what will land Franky his big break. What should have been an easy enough endeavor is met with a number of road bumps for the duo. Including Douglas, a stowaway rockabilly, and having the police in pursuit after Arsène holds a man hostage so Franky can have a part in a student project.
"Robert Mitchum Is Dead" is a perfect road trip movie. I hate to use the word 'perfect' since it sets an expectation that might be too hard to be met for a viewer, but the movie does have the ingredients for a road flick down pat. One of the things that I loved about it are the locations. Even though it is an independent (no idea if it's low-budget but I'm sure it's a safe bet that it is) movie, the different countries that our characters travel through are very much present. Read that as they're not faked. Not all of them anyway. The changing environments become their own character in the movie and have a strong presence -- one of the most important parts for this type of a movie because that's what road trips are about in real life.
And at times "Robert Mitchum Is Dead" felt somewhat Jim Jarmusch inspired. No idea if it actually is or not but each element to the movie has it's own value. The movie is just as much about the characters as it about the journey that they're on. Any movie in any genre can have a tendency to focus on the former or the latter and allow the other to fall by the wayside. Sometimes it works out, most other times it results in an inferior product. The trip that Arsène and Franky are on never changes its worth and by the end, you want to see them reach their destination in hopes they fulfill their dreams. But the characters in "Robert Mitchum Is Dead" is what really makes the movie shine.
That's also where it felt the most Jarmuschian. While the adventure of trying to make it to a film festival in the Arctic Circle is entertaining, watching the personal journey that our main characters go through is what makes it feel worth the viewing. We get to see why Franky is so passionate about becoming an actor but hasn't had much luck with that, or in life in general. And we also get to see why getting to this festival is important enough to Arsène that he becomes a criminal over the course of the movie. In all comes to a head in the bitter sweet climax where our characters, who both actually have the same goals, deal with their situations in a different manner. One allows his passion and desire to push him over the edge while the other learns that what we want isn't what we actually need in our life.
The characters make the movie enjoyable and "Robert Mitchum Is Dead" is also an extremely well produced and executed independent film in a dying sub-genre. It's a great love letter to movies that features equal parts comedy and drama. With beautiful locations filling the background and watching likable characters on a journey, you can't help but get into the film. It's not a life affirming movie and it won't change your outlook on anything, but it's still enjoyable because it's a well rounded and casual movie to turn on.