Out of all the mysteries in our lives the most unsolved case is our parents. Whether you got to grow up with your parents or never even met them there is always so much unanswered and unresolved. Sometimes we do not realize how little we actually know about them until the answers can no longer be given. If we are a product of our parents how can we fully be ourselves if we do not have a great inkling on who they are and once were. ACIDMAN the latest quiet and tender film from Alex Lehmann (Blue Jay, Paddleton) ponders on these ideas through a father-daughter duo that appears to be searching for something bigger, but in fact just wants answers to some of the simplest questions that are often the hardest to answer. Acidman always harbors two wonderful performances from Dianna Agron and one of Hollywood’s most underrated actors, Thomas Haden Church. Together they create some powerful quiet moments that reminds us, our parents made us who we are even if we have no clue what exactly that is.
Maggie (Dianna Agron) is still searching, not just metaphorically but she is literally still searching for her father who has gone off the beaten path many years ago. Lehmann and Agron make it clear from the start that Maggie is also running away from something of her own. As she drives down open country roads she continuously ignores her phone from a mysterious caller, and Agron excels at constantly having a look on her face that begs “please don’t ask me what’s wrong.” She does not want to focus on herself instead she distracts herself with the mission of searching for her father. Her father in question is Lloyd, a tall, rugged man with silver hair and Haden’s deep California surfer voice that lights up every word he utters. Church has made a great career for himself using his own physical attributes to his benefit. His surfer voices allows for deadpan humor in films such as “Easy A” and “Daddy’s Home”, but it has also allowed him to harness a vulnerability that he wonderfully displayed as Flint Marko aka Sandman in “Spider-Man 3” (this critic still desperately needs to see Sideways). When Lloyd first appears it is a close encounter with death, as Maggie almost hits him and his dog Migo with her car. Lloyd doesn’t even register the incident and is barely phased when his estranged daughter steps out of the car. He is excited to welcome her home, but in such a subdued way you wonder if he sees her as more of a nuisance than a daughter. But Maggie ignores the short handed remarks, she is here to make sure her dad is safe.
If Lloyd is safe and okay is a peculiar and difficult question to answer, the man appears to be living a hermit lifestyle, but that doesn’t harm anyone, what concerns Maggie more than anything is the discovery that her father spends his nights wandering the woods and trying to communicate with UFOs. Lloyd believes he has found a way to communicate with them and that they are reaching out to him specifically. In a role reversal of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, we see the impact and fear this has on the child first hand. Maggie doesn’t want to startle her father with screaming matches or accusations, but it is clear that her father, who from her memories doesn’t always let fantasies go, is not connecting with everything he should be. But as the two of them spend more time together Lehmann’s script (which he wrote along with Chris Dowling) shows what Maggie is running away from and she feels that as much as she doesn’t understand her father, she is him more and more each day. It is familiar territory and the conversations they have can often feel like they are coming up short for a film taking on issues as big as the cosmos, but the two performers bounce off each other with no hesitation. Agron who is most famous for her time on the hit Fox show Glee has been making an interesting turn in her career lately, taking on women who are lost and doing everything they can to hide it until it boils over. When Maggie finally gets to let out some of her more hidden emotions Agron commands every moment and expresses the pain so many children have and most likely never get to tell their parents. The results are hard hitting especially when given the response (or lack of) she gets from her father in a moment where Church uses silence to speak volumes.
ACIDMAN is another example of the mumblecore genre that Lehmann has done so well in. These films may move at a pace that others find lacking, and while not every beat hits there is an honestly and accuracy amongst his work. Where “Blue Jay” allowed exes to say what they always wanted to, and “Paddleton” allowed male friendship to open up more than ever, ACIDMAN is another opportunity for someone to be given a chance to say something they thought they never would be able to. Many of us may believe if given the moment we would relish yelling at our parents making them answer for all their mistakes, but in truth often we just want more time with them. As Maggie questions if her father is mentally well with all his intergalactic ideas she begins to realize that our parents have harbored our energy as children and all our fantastical ideas, why then must it be so strange for us to do the same as they get older. It isn’t about them being right in their fantasies or wrong in their delusions, but rather accepting that parents for all their faults are also still searching, and even they do not have answers to our most burning questions. So maybe we can find what we are looking for together even if we have to travel galaxies just for a glimpse of the truth.
ACIDMAN PREMIERED AT THE 2022 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL. IT IS CURRENTLY SEEKING U.S. DISTRIBUTION