First, a little background info: In 1974, director Werner Herzog discovered that his mentor, Lotte Eisner, was in poor health. He walked 430 miles to visit her, hoping she’d be better, because that’s just the kind of shit Werner Herzog (one of my favorite directors, incidentally) does. In 2006, actor and filmmaker Linas Phillips was inspired to repeat the journey by walking 1,135 miles, from Seattle to Los Angeles, in order to visit Herzog. This was chronicled in Phillips’ documentary, WALKING TO WERNER.
In the mockumentary WALKING TO LINAS, two performance artists decide to continue the tradition by walking to Linas Phillips, a staggering 1.5 miles away. And yet, Ada and Stasha can’t even seem to get this right.
Because it would seem that both Herzog and Phillips, as eccentric as they may be, had their shit together a little more than our main characters. Ada (Aiden Karamanyan) is a plus-size dancer who is friendly and focused, if a little short-sighted. Stasha (Tonjia Atomic) is a singer who is devoted to her friend, but she also seems to have issues with other people. The journey runs into difficulties immediately, thanks to Stasha’s impracticality, providing one of the film’s first big laughs.
WALKING TO LINAS is based on the web series, THE PROSAIC LIFE OF STASHA AND ADA. I strongly urge checking out this funny series before watching WALKING TO LINAS. Rather than just being a film adaptation of that series, LINAS is instead a natural progression, the series acting as a prequel of sorts. The film shows a slightly more raw and unscripted adventure. What it doesn’t do is give you a real background on Stasha and Ada, and it probably would have helped to fill in the blanks as they began their journey. It can be a bit difficult to get a real grasp on the characters if you go in cold. The series provides this much-needed background about their origins and personalities.
Atomic also directs, presenting a different style than PROSAIC LIFE. Atomic’s WALKING TO LINAS takes the mockumentary approach, so no big cuts and the whole thing unravels like we’re involved in their journey, rather than watching from a comfortable distance. This includes sequences both humorous and awkward, such as when Stasha reacts rudely to an old friend of Ada’s or when Ada engages a busker in conversation after Stasha specifically asks her not to.
The style evokes films like Richard Linklater’s SLACKER that take a DIY approach to presenting members of the artistic community. The film relies on these two people who seem to be breathing embodiments of the Seattle art scene. The strange characters they randomly encounter leads to extended absurdity The most animated and consistently funny figure in the film is Mrs. Pinkerton (Rachel LeBlanc), an Earth Mother figure not above selling drugs or singing the praises of SHOWGIRLS.
Unfortunately, the mockumentary style also means relying on natural sound, Hence, the video equipment picks up everything. Ambient sound ranging from passing traffic, low-flying planes and wind threatens to overpower Karamanyan and Atomic during some of their most interesting exchanges. Some films can use this to great effect, such as in Woody Allen’s overlooked HUSBANDS AND WIVES. But in a film like WALKING TO LINAS, where we spend most of the time on the street, it works against the film as a whole. The dialogue is natural and funny, I just wished I could hear more of it.
The delivery is dead on. If Karamanyan and Atomic didn’t improvise the dialogue, it sure feels like they did. And in this instance, that’s a major compliment. It never feels as though we are watching scripted characters but real people in what should be a mundane situation, that gets progressively weirder as the film goes on.
Karamanyan and Atomic make a good pair on-screen. You believe their eccentric characters and get a real sense of their friendship. And like many girl friends, they don’t always get along. Stasha and Ada seem to be at odds with one another, but always wind up back in each other’s company. And of course they do. The unspoken bond between them seems too strong to severely impact their journey, no matter how many detours they encounter. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
– Not rated, but the equivalent to a mild PG-13 for a few curses here and there… I think. I really can’t think of too much that was objectionable.
– Running time: 1hr 2mins.