Over the last few years Ramin Bahrani has slowly become one of my favorite working filmmakers, and just with the release of three features. I thought his 2005 effort Man Push Cart was an interesting story that showed a lot of style and managed to accomplish quite a bit while still taking a minimal approach to filmmaking; but it didn’t quite connect with me on a deeper level. In his second feature, when Bahrani took his unique form of small, anti-cinematic character study and pointed it at the young Alejandro in 2007’s Chop Shop, I found myself to be deeply affected by the characters introduced and the naturalist way that Bahrani is able to build emotion and intrigue by doing very little, and create beautiful imagery without being in the least bit showy. 2008’s Goodbye Solo was even better, a filmgoing experience that I found to be truly sublime.
So what the heck is this micro budget indie filmmaker doing casting Zac Efron and Dennis Quaid in his next movie? Up to this point everything he has done has employed mostly unknowns, so seeing these two Hollywood names get attached to something he’s doing comes as a pretty big shock. Quaid I can kind of accept. If Bahrani is dipping his toe into the waters of making studio films, then Quaid is a performer who I can see him going after. Despite the fact that he makes a lot of crap, like The Day After Tomorrow, Legion, and G.I. Joe, I think that he’s pretty underrated and underutilized as an actor. And he’s getting old enough to play the sort of stark, craggy faced old timer who has been through a lot, which could be an asset to Bahrani’s bleak but realist approach to filmmaking.
Efron’s name comes as a huge shock though. I only know him as a Disney creation that didn’t manage to become as famous as Justin Bieber while employing the same bag of tricks. What sequence of events could have led to him and Ramin Bahrani having meetings about an acting gig? Has Efron played some great dramatic role that I don’t know about? Did Bahrani find himself coming out of the theater bawling his eyes out when he saw Charlie St. Cloud? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. This new project was described as being about, “a farmer whose manic expansion alienates his sons and devoted wife”, so in setting as well as casting it will be a departure for the director. Up until now everything he has made has been very intrinsically urban. While perplexed at what I’ve heard so far, I guess I’m still intrigued to see where all of this is going. Let’s see what kind of tricks this Efron kid has up his sleeve. [Variety]