Feature directing debut for Macy, who also co-wrote the screenplay and plays a bit role. Billy Crudup stars (favorite anecdote: when Crudup had trouble calling up the emotions for a particular scene, Macy said, "looks like you have to fake it"). Rudderless played at Sundance, and it has a Sundancey cast, including Felicity Huffman, Selena Gomez, Kate Micucci, Anton Yelchin, and Laurence Fishburne.
The film ambles along, a low-key study of grief, with Crudup as a father whose son dies in a college shooting. It's too low-key ... when Crudup finally breaks down, it feels deserved, but it still plays as too hyped-up compared to the mellow feel of the movie until then. Crudup is fine, and Yelchin is the best thing about the movie as a young, aspiring rocker. But there is a plot twist ... and it is crucial to the movie, but I don't like giving spoilers. Suffice to say that when the twist comes, it is quite startling, even impressive (at least if, like me, you never see these twists coming). But after it happened, I felt abused by a cheap ploy that existed only for the shock value. It doesn't grow organically out of the narrative. Information is kept from the audience until the moment when the emotional impact will be greatest, but I don't like being worked over that way. (Stephen Holden in the New York Times called the film "dishonest, manipulative and ultimately infuriating".)
Rudderless is listed as a musical, but it's a musical the way Almost Famous was a musical: it has musicians playing music, but they don't drive the film. (And, of course, Crudup was in Almost Famous as well. He was more charismatic in that movie, but that isn't really called for here.)
The acting is fine ... Fishburne has a minor role, but I enjoyed seeing him (in fact, he's the reason I watched in the first place ... I wanted to see something of his that was new to me). If it wasn't for that stupid plot twist, Rudderless would have been a decent picture, shallow but tolerable. ("Shallow" compared to, say, The Leftovers, which set the new standard for presenting grief.) It's not an embarrassment, it just rubbed me the wrong way. 6/10.