Three young guys face a crossroads to maturity in CROSSING THE BRIDGE, an autobiographical drama that offers too little to distinguish itself from every other film about three young guys facing a crossroads to maturity.
The story, set during the late 1970s, is told from the point of view of Mort Golden (Josh Charles, standing in for writer-director Mike Binder, who wrote the screenplay for COUPE DEVILLE and has appeared in comedy specials on HBO), an aspiring writer and stand-up comic. Having graduated from high
school in a grungy town on the outskirts of Detroit, Mort is facing the future with pals Tim Reese (Jason Gedrick), a victim of child abuse with a psycho-sized chip on his shoulder, and ex-high school football star Danny Morgan (Stephen Baldwin, brother of Alec, Daniel and William). Only Mort has
anything resembling a plan. Tim single-handedly fights gangs of kids from his old school for money, while Danny, the trio's ostensible "leader," mostly looks cool and drives around in the trio's designated party wagon, an unregistered old blue sedan. The three drink endless beers and chain-smoke
cigarettes to bide the time between outings to go-go bars across the bridge in Canada. These outings attract the attention of a local drug dealer who offers the trio a hefty fee to transport hashish across the border from Canada into the US.
While trying to decide whether or not to accept, Mort gets fired from his job in a typewriter repair shop by his uncle (Jeffrey Tambor), who believes Mort caused a friend's (Hy Anzell) fatal heart attack. Mort also tries to reignite an old relationship with an ex-girlfriend (Cheryl Pollak) who has
gone to college in Canada. Danny's life is upturned when his single dad decides to sell the family house and move into an apartment with his girlfriend--and without Danny. Tim meanwhile continues to simmer in his domestic private hell. The three accept the deal, though Mort begins having second
thoughts when he's awarded a full scholarship to a college writing program. Going across the bridge, they stop off long enough for Mort to bed down his old flame before going on to an isolated farm where they find that the cargo is to be heroin rather than hashish. After a violent run-in with head
dope dealer Mitchell (Richard Edson) that leaves Tim beaten to a pulp, the three return only to realize what they're risking and abandon the sedan at the border.
Although coming-of-age stories have long been a literary staple, CROSSING THE BRIDGE attempts to revive the relentlessly pop-scored sagas that spread into theaters like fungus after the success of 1973's AMERICAN GRAFFITI and didn't peter out until the genre's inevitable debasement in the PORKY'S
sex films and the FRIDAY THE 13TH slashers of the 80s. These days, the genre continues to limp along in small-screen variations ranging from quasi-pornographic videos to "star-studded" network telemovies. But for all intents and purposes, it's a dead horse, and it's quite beyond Binder's powers
here to breathe any new life into it.
Virtually all coming-of-age dramas rely on the same stock characters as the ones on display here, from the sensitive guy perpetually on the quest to lose his virginity to the troubled teen perpetually in hot water with his "old man." They usually face a life-threatening, future-altering crisis,
whether it's adulthood itself or its metaphoric embodiments, from Jason the hockey-masked slasher to the porcine pimp Porky himself. And they always do so to the tune of pop songs of the era that waft across the soundtrack telegraphing every stock emotion and theme. But CROSSING THE BRIDGE has
even fewer surprises than usual, since only the dimmest of viewers could fail to grasp going in that a film distributed by a Walt Disney subsidiary is not likely to endorse drug smuggling as an acceptable middle-class career pursuit.
The acting throughout is fine and the period detail is solid and evocative, including an unbilled, speechless cameo as one of the drug dealers by rocker and ex-druggie Dave Crosby (or somebody looking astoundingly like him). (Since this is supposedly the 70s, however, where's the disco music?) But
the same is true of countless other sensitive coming-of-age sagas. Binder may well go on to more interesting work in the future, but this time he's tackled one genre badly in need of at least a decade-long hiatus. (Violence, substance abuse, profanity, adult situations.) leave a comment