It’s always a challenge to have a movie revolve around an unsympathetic character, such as a privileged, rich snob. On the one hand, if the film is able to craft a solid transformational arc, said character should, somehow, win you over (rarities such as Daniel Plainview win you over for entirely different reasons; they don’t change, they endure). On the other hand, you run the risk of annoying or alienating your audience who may decide that the character isn’t worth rooting for or against and, quite simply, isn’t worth much of anything.
“Sherman’s Way” tells the story of one such unsympathetic character, a college student by the name of Sherman (Michael Shulman) who is set, thanks to the help from his famous lawyer mother, to begin an important internship that will set his legal career, and himself, up for the life he was destined to lead. His girlfriend Marcy (Lacy Chabert) is a bit more adventurous, and wants Sherman to stay with her over the summer in California instead of take said internship. By the time Sherman realizes that might be a good idea, and travels to visit her, she’s already found a taller, more handsome substitute. To show Marcy how spontaneous he can be, he decides to hitchhike away, being picked up by Palmer “The Bomber,” (James LeGros) a former Olympic skier and just the kind of free spirit Sherman needs to be around to de-crustify his life. And Palmer does just that, taking Sherman under his wing.
To director Craig Saavedra’s credit, and Michael Shulman’s as well, Sherman never veers off into the no-man’s land of unsympathetic forever and the audience is actually able to grow and care for him. This is emphasized by the fact that our other choice of protagonist, the questionably charismatic Palmer, is a proper realistic counterpoint where the grass may appear greener, but only because it’s been spray-painted that way. Palmer doesn’t always behave in the most savory of ways, but he is a good guy, and that is fairly obvious when you get to spend more than two minutes with him and his friend DJ (Enrico Colantoni). At first glance, however, he appears to be a Grizzly Adams-esque version of Hunter S. Thompson. Thank you, James LeGros, for putting in such a great performance. James has long been one of those actors who is terribly under-rated, while putting up great performance after great performance.
In the end, “Sherman’s Way” is just that, a journey for both Sherman and Palmer. Neither has all the answers, and neither is going to be able to get where they want to go without having run into each other first. Never too dreary, “Sherman’s Way” is a pleasant drama-comedy that’s just fun to watch, much like a laid-back drive during the summer; it’s not about where you’re going, or how you’ll get there, but just about how it feels to be in the car driving.