What Lies Ahead is the film debut of Rob Gardner, and he proves perfectly fine in that role. While there is a distinct lack of style, the camera setups, and edits are very journeyman, he does solidly craft atmosphere. Once the road trip begins, there is an uneasiness that permeates throughout. When Raven tricks an employee at a fast food burger joint and steals the food they ordered, against Jessica’s protests, Raven plays it off like a prank. This cavalier attitude toward vices never sits well with Jessica nor the audience.
First-time screenwriter William J. Viglione wrote the film. The two main characters are nicely fleshed out and engaging. The awkward moments in their conversations feel natural, as strangers thrown together on a long journey. The plot though is where the film takes a mighty hit. The reveal of what is actually transpiring between the two women is very easy to guess, which in and of itself is not the worst thing. However, the why is disappointing, and the audience is not given enough information about Kyle, as he is only a voice over the phone, for there to be much of an impact felt.
“…feel quite confident in stating that Willis has never been better…”
However, the weaknesses in the script are overcome by Willis and Dumont, both of whom shine brightly. I am unfamiliar with Emma Dumont (apparently she’s in Inherent Vice, though I don’t recall her in it) but she plays the shy and sweet Jessica perfectly and wins the viewer over to her side with ease. Rumer Willis has had a habit of appearing in not-very-good movies such as the genuinely dreadful Future World and the bland Sorority Row remake. As such, it might be a little unfair to judge how good an actress she is based on those projects. With that in mind, I feel quite confident in stating that Willis has never been better before. She infuses Raven with such brashness that the audience can’t help but be taken in. When Raven confesses to Jessica that the real reason she had Buddy hit on her was to test how loyal Jessica is to Kyle, that twisted logic sounds somewhat sane coming out of her mouth.
What Lies Ahead is predictable, and the direction lacks finesse. However, the main characters are well realized, and Willis and Dumont are absolutely perfect in their respective roles. It is worth watching at least once, maybe more if you are a big fan of either of these actresses.
What Lies Ahead (2019) Directed by Rob Gardner. Written by William J. Viglione. Starring Rumer Willis, Emma Dumont, Kelly Blatz, James Harper.
6.5 out of 10 Stars