In Twentynine Palms, David (David Wissak), a location scout of some description, heads out into the Californian desert to, uhm, well, scout locations. His neurotic, French speaking girlfriend, Katia (Kaita Golubeva), tags along giving him someone to argue with, eat with, and have sex with, in between looking at rocks, sand and trees.
Eating, arguing, shagging and scouting fill the first hour and a half (or so) of this plotless film before, as they say in the location scouting business, things go terribly wrong.
Twentynine Palms is a bit like a Jack-in-the-box toy. It makes no real attempt to entertain you while you wait patiently for the thing to pop. It’s all about the anticipation. And it doesn’t matter how prepared you think you are for it’s final pop, unless you’ve seen it before, it still manages to catch you off guard.
I had the lowest of low expectations when sitting down to watch Twentynine Palms so I can say quite sincerely it was better than I expected. But it’s still not a great film. Firstly, it really needed to be shorter. If you make people wait too long for the Jack to pop they become less impressed when it does, or worse they walk away before it does. Also, for this movie to rise above being the one trick pony that it is, it needed more character development and less protracted shots of cars disappearing into the distance (yes Mr Bruno Dumont, I get it, they’re isolated).
The conclusion was startling, to be sure, but it would have had even more impact had I actually given a toss about David and Katia.