Directed by Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens
OPENS AT THE CHARLES THEATER FRIDAY, AUG. 22
Look, I wanted to give “Land Ho!” a chance. I really did. Sure, it looked like just another movie obsessed with the lives and choices of straight white men—clearly a story line that has never been explored before in Hollywood!—but the trailer seemed like it might have something interesting to say about friendship in old age.
In “Land Ho!,” boisterous surgeon Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) strong-arms his ex-brother-in-law Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) into going on a trip to Iceland with him, claiming that it’ll boost Colin’s spirits in light of his recent split from his second wife.
And, to be fair, “Land Ho!” does have some positive attributes. It’s a visually appealing film, with solid cinematography that gets a big boost from the gorgeous, highly photogenic features of Iceland. The dialogue feels genuine, and there are a few genuinely funny scenes, including one where a very drunk young bar-goer introduces Mitch and Colin to glowsticks.
But any goodwill I harbored toward the movie basically died as soon as Mitch started talking about women. There’s a hint at what’s to come in the beginning, when Mitch describes all of Iceland’s positive attributes: “The hot springs, the juicy, fantastic lobsters, and the gorgeous broads.” Sure, some casual objectification and sexism might be expected from an old white dude, but shit gets downright uncomfortable when Colin and Mitch meet up with Mitch’s 20-something first cousin once removed, Ellen (Karrie Crouse), and her friend Janet (Elizabeth McKee). Mitch insists on lending them his credit card to buy clothes after their bags get lost, then gets upset when the clothes the women buy aren’t sufficiently form-fitting. He makes gross objectifying comment after gross objectifying comment—and remember, Ellen is his relative. And it keeps on going, with Mitch trying to convince Colin that 20-something Janet is interested in him, Mitch describing women’s asses in yoga pants far too graphically, Mitch making a list of top female celebrity body parts.
The audience is meant to understand how gross this is—Ellen and Janet are visibly uncomfortable whenever Mitch says anything about their bodies—but it feels like nothing more than a lazy way to make Mitch “complicated.” It’s as though the writers wrote up a character sketch of a weed-smoking, outgoing old man who has just retired and who doesn’t speak to his family and then said, “Oh shit, he should probably have some flaws . . . let’s make him a chauvinist pig!”
Colin is at least a sympathetic character, and both of the lead actors do their best to play the characters well. But they don’t have much to work with, given how shallowly their characters are conceptualized in the script. And again, the Iceland scenery shots are gorgeous—but if I want to appreciate the scenery, I’ll watch a nature documentary of Iceland. And if I want to get a dose of sexist bullshit, I’ll just go out to the bar and field lewd comments from drunk old men there. At least there I might be able to get a free drink out of it.