Though it doesn’t break new ground, Hudson is a sweet and satisfying comedy about grief and forgiveness.
After the death of his mother, reclusive and quirky Hudson (David Neal Levin) and his estranged cousin, Ryan (Gregory Lay), embark on a road trip to spread her ashes. Directed by Sean Daniel Cunningham (This is When We Met) and written by Cunningham and Lay, Hudson follows a well-worn comedy formula but executes it well. It’s easy to forget that formulas often exist for a reason – because they work. While I’m a fan of innovation in movies and always appreciate the unexpected, sometimes it’s nice to be able to sit back and know that a movie is going to take care of you. There won’t be any surprises or nasty emotional jolts. With Hudson, the experience you get is the exact one that you signed up for.
That isn’t to say that it’s generic or tired – it isn’t. David Neal Levin gives a charming performance as Hudson, the charismatic and down-to-earth foil to Lay’s uptight city-slicker Ryan. A middle-aged guy living alone in his dead mother’s house is a premise that can quickly become creepy (Psycho comes to mind), or at the very least pitiful, but Hudson is neither. Immediately likeable and vulnerable at all the right moments, Levin’s performance ensures that Hudson is more than his oddities.
Set in rural New York in the fall, Hudson feels deeply rooted in the mundane. Early in the film, Ryan stands on Hudson’s mother’s porch, still crowded with her belongings. The everyday clutter is almost unnervingly accurate and reminded me of the front porch of my own grandparents’ house in suburban Ontario. There was more than one moment when Hudson felt like it was holding up a mirror to reality in a way that not many films, big budget or independent, usually pull off. The sense of the ordinary that permeates the first act is strong enough to not only immerse the audience in the setting, but also to sharpen the sense of loss. Hudson’s life after his mother’s death felt like a relatable and realistic portrait of grief, one that was powerful simply because it was ordinary.
Admittedly, by the third act, Hudson does begin to lose its footing, relying on blunt metaphors and clichés to get across the finish line. Still, this is a cohesive and polished film that proves Sean Daniel Cunningham and Gregory Lay know what they are doing. Like the cinematic equivalent of a hug or a mug of hot cocoa, Hudson is warm and comforting, even if it doesn’t change the world or reinvent the wheel.
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