Road to Nowhere (Monterey), Monte Hellman’s first feature in 21 years, is a film about making a film and a film within a film, with an unknown actress (played by Shannyn Sossamon) hired to play a role in a film based on a murky true story about a politician who embezzled $100 million and disappeared with a young woman. From the opening scene, as a journalist drops a DVD (titled “Road to Nowhere”) into a laptop and watches a film (complete with fictionalized credits) roll out, the lines between the characters, the actors and the levels of stories within stories are blurred. The mystery of the missing politician and the stolen money that inspires the screenplay segues into a story about the mystery of cinema and the nature of stories and storytelling.
There’s plenty of nods to films and filmmaking and the conventions of storytelling laced through the picture via film clips and layered references. And when the director Mitchell Haven (Tygh Runyan), the director of the film “Road to Nowhere” within the film Road to Nowhere, is asked by Variety editor Peter Bart (played by real-life Variety editor Peter Bart) “Do you feel a little rusty in any way?” and he answers “A little. I’m just glad to be back on track,” it could be a comment on Hellman’s own career. Or an in-joke for folks in the know. Or maybe a personal nod to Hellman by screenwriter Steven Gaydos, a longtime friend who wrote the script for him.