Tuesday 10th July 2018

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Kodachrome

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Matt Ryder (Jason Sudeikis) is a record executive who is in danger of losing his job due to his constant failings to sign big artists to the record label. He is met in his office by Zooey Kern (Elizabeth Olsen) who is the assistant to Benjamin Ryder (Ed Harris), a lifetime photographer and Matt’s father. She informs him that Ben is dying and has a final request: to go to Parsons in Kansas to develop some Kodachrome film from “Dwayne’s Photo”, a small photo shop that is the last place that develops Kodachrome film — and will stop developing Kodachrome in a few weeks. Matt and Ben haven’t spoken in over a decade, and Matt refuses to take his father to Kansas. Their estranged relationship is very apparent after a contentious dinner where Matt blames Ben for his bad childhood, including sleeping around on his mother.

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Larry (Dennis Haysbert), Ben’s manager, offers to arrange a sitdown between Matt and the Spare 7’s, a popular rock band that he has been trying to sign and might just save his job. The condition being that Matt takes Ben to Kansas. In an old convertible, Matt, Ben and Zooey start their journey to Kansas. Zooey confronts Matt about being “less scared” to let Ben in and to try and loosen up. Coming back from his working, Matt peers through the open blinds of Zooey’s hotel room and sees her playing cards with Ben, laughing and having a fun time. At a diner, Ben makes a point about Zooey’s marriage ending in an affair, while Matt continues his verbal hostility towards him. She in turn continues to warn Matt about his father’s time being limited.

The journey continues, with Matt sharing a story with Zooey about the death of his mother. Ben suggests they detour an hour out of the way to see Ben’s brother Dean (Bruce Greenwood) and his wife Sara (Wendy Crewson). Sara confuses Matt and Zooey’s relationship, and despite their explanation of not being together, they end up sharing a room. They bond a little over Matt’s old music collection, with Ben teasing her about having never heard of the band Live, or the song “Lightning Crashes”. Later, in speaking to Aunt Sara, Matt expresses concern that everyone in the family is too easily accepting of Ben, even after all of Ben’s mistakes and failings. Uncle Dean tells Matt that he’s happy that Matt is taking this trip. Later, a drunk Matt tells Zooey how beautiful she is. When he leans in to kiss her, he falls off of the bed. He sleeps on the floor, while Zooey takes the bed, and they end up sharing stories of their failed marriages.

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The next morning, Zooey is startled out of bed by the sounds of Ben, who has fallen in the bathroom and cannot stand up. Breakfast is uncomfortable as Ben looks at both Zooey and Matt, saying “You two are screwing now?”, then brings up an incident from long ago where Ben slept with Sara before she met Dean. Back on the road, Ben continues to discuss Zooey and Matt sleeping together, and is disappointed when he finds out they aren’t.

Larry has arranged for special passes to a Spare 7’s concert where Matt will have a chance to pitch his record label to the band. He runs his sales pitch by Ben, who thinks its terrible, and tells Matt he should speak with authority, telling the band what he can fix instead of just gladhanding. Ben then questions Matt’s real motives for even coming on this road trip. When Matt meets the band, he tries to offer them creative control and special treatment to try to sign them. When they balk, he tries Ben’s tactic of telling the band what they are doing wrong and how they need to get it fixed. The band’s lead singer, Jasper (Gethin Anthony) and the band admires Matt’s nerve and as they begin to agree to work with Matt, they look over and see Ben, who has accidentally urinated himself, and begin to laugh and mock him. Matt realizes the low character of the band members, and declines to sign them, walking out.

Arriving back to the hotel, Matt walks over to a nearby bar, while Ben expresses disappointment at Matt for not closing the deal. Zooey, appalled by Ben’s attitude towards Matt after Matt threw away a career decision to defend him, confronts Ben, which leads to Ben firing her as his nurse and assistant. Hurt, she joins Matt at the bar. After word of Matt’s walking out in the Spare 7’s gets out, his record company sends him a text that he’s fired. Zooey then begins to sing along to “Lightning Crashes”, playing overhead, revealing that she is familiar with the band Live. They return to the hotel room and sleep together.

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Matt awakens with Zooey dressed and packing, as she’s heading to the airport, saying she’s called a nurse to replace her, and says the previous night with Matt a mistake. She tells him that her marriage didn’t end because her husband cheated — it ended because she cheated on him. She gets on an elevator and leaves. When Ben doesn’t answer his door after Matt knocks repeatedly, he gets the hotel staff to open it, finding Ben passed out on the floor. At the hospital, the nurse tells Matt that Ben’s cancer has spread to the point where they can keep him comfortable, but he cannot travel anymore, especially the hundreds of miles remaining to Kansas. Ben wakes up, asking Matt not to tell Zooey that he’s in the hospital, to avoid her blaming herself. That night, he struggles to load film into a camera, eliciting Matt’s help. Through tears, Ben tells Matt that he doesn’t expect forgiveness, but that he loves him and apologizes for not being a good father.

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The next day, Matt rolls in a wheelchair, planning on taking Ben out of the hospital to make it to the photo shop, which by this time, will stop developing Kodachrome by the close of business the next day. They finally make it to Parsons, Kansas early the next morning. When they check into the hotel, the manager puts them in the same room, saying that people have been coming in from all over the world to get their film developed and the rooms are scarce. Inside Dwayne’s Photo, the clerk tells them that they stopped taking Kodachrome the day before, because they ran out of dye. Ben calls for Dwayne to come out, and he does, giving Ben a hearty welcome and sharing that they go way back. He says he left a little room in the film processing just in case Ben made it, and says the pictures will be ready the next day. As Matt and Ben start to leave, Ben is recognized by several patrons, including one from National Geographic, admitting that he became a photographer because of Ben. Matt stands by, understanding the impact his father has had on the photography world.

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In the hotel room, Ben is cleaning his camera while sitting at a desk. He falls asleep and passes away. As his body is loaded into an ambulance, dozens of photographers salute him by lining the walkway and flashing their cameras. Larry arrives, saying he’s working on getting the body released. Then Dwayne appears, delivers the developed photos, saying that outside of the ones he took personally, Ben’s pictures are the last ones to ever be developed by Kodachrome. As Matt starts to hand them to Larry, Larry refuses, saying that Ben was very direct that Matt take care of them.

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Matt tries calling Zooey, leaving a few voicemails, expressing regret over the choices he’s made, and how he doesn’t want to give up on her. Arriving back at Ben’s home, Matt pulls out the pictures, loads them into the projector and sees them for the first time. He is surprised to see dozens of pictures of himself as a little boy, many with his deceased mother, and some as a baby with his father. Zooey appears, saying that Larry told her Matt would be there. She asks if he’d like some company, and he says yes, and they stand together closely, watching the pictures on the wall. Many pictures taken by Ben appear during the credits, and the credits reveal the film was shot on Kodak 35mm film

Kodachrome

Paul Simon

When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder
I can think at all
And though my lack of education
Hasn’t hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall

Kodachrome
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s
a sunny day
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away

If you took all the girls I knew
When I was single
And brought them all together
for one night
I know they’d never match
my sweet imagination
Everything looks worse
in black and white

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