The mismatch-couple, road-trip indie "The Odd Way Home" has all the hallmarks of a director — in this case, one Rajeev Nirmalakhandan — eager to announce, "Look what I can do!"
What he can do is commercials, maybe. The story concerns drug-addicted singer Maya (Rumer Willis), who escapes an abusive relationship, and on a desolate stretch of New Mexico highway finds herself saddled with an autistic gas station attendant named Duncan (Chris Marquette) for a companion.
But it's all so inanely conceived and written (partly by the director) that Nirmalakhandan's excesses of directing style — flash cuts, mood lighting, pointlessly elaborate shots, jarring changes in tone — feel like neon paint on an outhouse.
The clichés alone doom the movie, from the forced whimsy of the pair's adventures to the predictable lessons in rejecting life's rotten apples and embracing one's makeshift family. Willis acquits herself fine, but special note must be made of the autistic character Duncan that Marquette is saddled with, a portrait of the condition so wretchedly schematic that he's the Frankenstein of cute-but-concerning movie misfit sidekicks, cobbled together from equal parts Rain Man, Starman, Lenny from "Of Mice and Men," problem child, robot partner, trained chimp and grumpy geezer.
"The Odd Way Home."
NO MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes.
At Arena Cinema, Hollywood.