An unpretentious road comedy with a cosmically aligned odd couple, Cas & Dylan gets incredible mileage thanks to great leading performances from veteran actor Richard Dreyfuss and rising star Tatiana Maslany. While every major plot point within Jessie Gabe’s screenplay can be seen coming from a far off distance, there’s an affability and likeableness to the film that remains entertaining throughout.
Winnipeg doctor Cas (Dreyfuss) has reached the end of his rope mentally and physically. Diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that will eventually kill him, he sets off for Vancouver to be alone when he dies. Before he leaves he gets sweet talked into giving a young hustler and aspiring writer (Maslany) a ride back to her boyfriend’s place. When she leaves behind her notebook of substandard writing, Cas walks into a bit of a domestic dispute that leads to him accidentally hitting her rifle toting boyfriend with his car and forcing him to take her along now that the pair are on the lam for maybe killing a guy.
It’s all pretty standard stuff. Both Cas and Dylan are die hard Type-A personalities with one being a ditsy, dishonest, slob and the other being a good hearted, easily flustered, and sometimes standoffish neat freak. Both have secrets they’re keeping from the other and their own reasons for wanting to head west, and those secrets will be revelatory for the both of them. They’ll learn more from their time spent annoying each other than they ever would have learned on their own. It’s the same storyline mined for The Odd Couple, Plains, Trains, & Automobiles, and Finding Nemo, just to name a few of the biggest successes. And while it still succeeds, Gabe’s script, particularly when it comes to Dylan’s ultimate motivations, has several wonky moments.
Directed quite nicely by actor and veteran TV director Jason Priestley, the film wisely allows Dreyfuss and Maslany plenty of room to flesh out their characters on their own against a well shot backdrop of small towns, rolling prairies, and crappy hotel room along the road. Priestly has a real knack for comedic timing, pacing the film in such a way that things never get too silly or too maudlin to a point of implausibility. It’s never in doubt that these two characters will become great friends by the end of this, but Priestly and his cast do fine jobs of sidestepping the most unnecessary clichés the genre often succumbs to.
It’s great to see Dreyfuss in a leading role again, especially with the kind of fussy, kind hearted everyman character that gave him so many of his best performance. He’s probably one of the most gracious straight-men in film history, but he never phones in these performances after a lifetime full of them. He has this sort of uncanny ability to tell when his co-star will find something they can riff on together, and scripted or not his co-star interactions never feel forced. He makes everyone better that’s drawn into his orbit and he’s able to elevate almost any material simply by being there. He’s someone that has aged well in the same way Paul Newman or Clint Eastwood has aged. He hasn’t really changed, but he’s always interesting and fun to watch while he’s at work. It’s also worth noting that he can still incorporate some pretty great bits of physical comedy at his age, as evidenced by a silly sequence where he’s tripping out after Dylan laces his coffee to calm him down.
Not that Maslany is any slouch, doing a great job holding her own against her more established counterpart. She gets to show off a real talent for comedy that many people who only know her from Orphan Black probably won’t be as familiar with. Her Dylan is a motormouth that is lying only every time her lips are moving. And yet, Maslany and Priestly frame the character in such a way that she seems self-aware and comfortable of her shortcomings. She’s not a very apologetic person unless she gets caught, but she definitely isn’t heartless. Her desire to leech from Cas in no way diminishes her genuine affection and gratitude towards someone who would have just been a dubious mark to a lesser character.
It’s just another road movie, but a decent enough entry into the genre. It’s certainly not something that can be analyzed any further than it’s most basic of aims, nor does it need to be. The goal is to entertain. It does. It’s a simple success.