In a rare dramatic lead, David Arquette plays a soundtrack composer at loose ends in the alienating Los Angeles of “The Land of the Astronauts.” Carl Colpaert’s feature reps a technical advance on his last, “G.I. Jesus,” but the diffuse script spreads meaningful insight and incidents too thinly over a narrative course that seldom seems to be going anywhere in particular. Self-distributed openings are planned in Los Angeles and New York next spring, though this moderately quirky yet tepid character study will have to fight to find an audience in any format.
Having recently scored a big sci-fi epic (from which “Land” takes its title) that’s currently flopping in theaters, Jack McKenzie (Arquette) is at a low ebb professionally and personally. He’s newly divorced, and on decent terms with his young daughter (Jacqueline Mackenzie) and ex-spouse (Carla Ortiz), despite past alcoholism and the lingering wound of a second daughter’s accidental death; adding insult to injury, his ex is now cohabiting with the hostile lawyer (Patrick Fabian) who fleeced Jack in court. The apartment complex he’s moved into is a dive with a shrewish landlady (Lin Shaye); job offers are not forthcoming.
Out of necessity, he starts driving for a limo service, which assigns him to chauffeur around an Australian movie star (Nicholas Bishop) who’s in town for a studio shoot, and who actually knows Jack’s work. This possible uptick in fortunes coincides with Jack’s encounter at an AA meeting with Erica (Bijou Phillips), a model/musician/sometime actress he recklessly falls for — a bit incomprehensibly, since she’s bratty, whiny, neurotic and incapable of committing to anything, including sobriety.
This is not a romance to root for, and the aimless screenplay provides precious little else to hang onto; result is an insubstantial slice of life on the industry margins whose stray fillips of reality-fantasy blur, surrealism and humor misfire. Arquette and the other thesps are fine but treading water in a mood piece that ends on a melodramatic note it scarcely justifies. The result can charitably be described as “Mulholland Dr.” very, very lite.
Packaging is modest but polished. Curiously, the supposedly original composition Jack keeps laboring on is easily recognized as a traditional Irish folk song memorably used in Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon.”