In Roland Tec’s cinematic treatise “We Pedal Uphill,” 13 vignettes, each separately titled and set in a different state, are meant to form a tapestry of American responses to the fear and paranoia that gripped the country in the aftermath of 9/11. Unlike the similarly message-sending “Crash,” the pic makes no narrative attempt to weave together separate strands, though thematic links abound. With a few notable exceptions, pic relies on O. Henry-esque twists, simplistic surprise endings and “aha!” epiphanies to gets its points across. Bowing for a one-week run at Gotham’s Cinema Village, “Uphill” faces a Sisyphean challenge.
Helmer-scribe Tec, whose “All the Rage” bubbled with satiric glee, here abandons humor for overloaded, all-of-a-piece somberness and straight-ahead lensing. Even a sardonic tale about a presidential photo op in California’s Sequoia National Park fails to fully exploit opportune foreground/background ironies. Pic’s one foray into more daring filmmaking pays off in a black-and-white, strikingly edited segment about Bush-era corporate blackmail and the price of integrity, while a subtler visual approach works wonders in a character study about a shell-shocked librarian victim of Homeland Security.