THE STORY – Lloyd is a reclusive man who lives in a home in the middle of nowhere, searching for UFOs. He is estranged from his daughter Maggie and has been given the nickname “Acidman” by the locals. One day his daughter Maggie arrives, having painstakingly tracked him down in order to visit with him and pass along some important news. The two find it difficult to talk to one another, at times relying on outside elements such as childhood toys or Lloyd’s dog Migo to fuel the conversation along. It’s when Maggie travels with Lloyd to search for UFOs that night that she realizes how much his mental health has deteriorated.
THE CAST – Thomas Haden Church & Dianna Agron
THE TEAM – Alex Lehmann (Director/Writer) & Chris Dowling (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 87 Minutes
Filmmaker Alex Lehmann has found a knack for telling emotional and moving stories with little fanfare. In particular, you can count on him to bring two people together who will, more often than not, get audiences teary-eyed. In his black-and-white film “Blue Jay,” starring Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass (who also wrote the script), the two play former high school sweethearts who reconnect and go down a turbulent memory lane together, showing the beautiful memories and sometimes scars, that first love brings. Similar two-hander stories have followed with “Paddleton” and “Meet Cute.”
With co-writer Chris Dowling, Lehmann has added another two-lead story to the collection with “Acidman.” This time around, scars from an estranged father-daughter relationship are examined as the two, played by Dianna Agron and Thomas Haden Church, reconnect after several years apart. The film is anchored by two solid performances from its leads, but the story itself doesn’t go the extra mile it deserves when dealing with such an emotional reunion.
Maggie (Agron) has traveled over 2,000 miles to reach the Oregonian wilderness, searching for her father, Lloyd (Church). It’s been a long time since the two of them have seen each other for reasons that aren’t known right off the bat, and we don’t exactly know why she’s looking for him after all this time. Regardless, this reunion will be a difficult one. When she arrives at his small home, she sees the area is a mess, and his house has the words “Acidman” spray-painted on it. To make matters worse, Maggie discovers her father’s solitary lifestyle – except for his sweet dog Migo and companion he has found in diner waitress Charlie (Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris) – has impacted his mental health.
We can quickly figure out where this estranged father-daughter story is going, but it also has a unique spin to it. In the middle of the night, Maggie catches Lloyd and Migo heading out somewhere. When she joins them, she discovers that her father has developed an obsession with UFOs and extraterrestrial creatures, which he believes are the red blinking lights he sees in the sky, and he wants to make contact with them. Though concerned about his well-being, she soon joins him in the nightly escapades. She reviews his video collection that chronicles his attempts to decipher the messages these alleged aliens are sending. It makes her and the viewers worry about his grip on reality. Through the not-so-subtle messages Lehmann and Dowling send in their script, this is a way Maggie and Lloyd can get a second chance at their relationship and find a way to bond.
Agron and Church’s performances are the highlights of the film. Agron, best known for her dramedy and singing chops in “Glee,” delivers a mature, grounded, and subdued performance of a daughter trying to find answers from her father. We see the hurt she’s endured over the years with her father’s absence and how it has impacted her relationships, particularly her marriage. Church, too, gives an emotional and quiet performance as he slowly lets us into his character’s life. It would be far too easy to label Lloyd as just a crazy person or for Church to give an insensitive performance. But he takes his time to build this man up, as well as respectfully show the struggles he faces. Thankfully the script doesn’t make fun of his eccentricity either.
Cinematographer John Matysiak also captures the Oregonian environment in such a way that it becomes its own character. The vast landscape and open spaces evoke a sense of loneliness, which complements much of what we see with our main characters and their struggles throughout the film.
Unfortunately, most of the story around them is not as solid, and with such a short 87-minute runtime, the movie leaves us wanting a lot more. It doesn’t fully dive into the many themes it brings up – abandonment, mental health, loneliness, etc. – and instead chooses to give us a surface-level look. Maggie and Lloyd, understandably, have awkward conversations and interactions with each other – it’s been a long time since they’ve been together, after all – but we long to see them get into emotional, heavy conversations way more than they do. There are moments when Maggie opens up to Lloyd, but he shuts down and doesn’t listen, and she typically does the same in many moments. We want to see these moments fleshed out but aren’t given much of a chance. Even the characters themselves could have been explored even more. What are Maggie and Lloyd like outside of this situation? How do they interact with others? There’s not much depth with these characters, and they ultimately feel very two-dimensional.