By the end I came to appreciate the story structure and central relationship from a critical remove. But this felt overall like a bad dream I couldn't escape from, which might be due to my difficulty latching onto 1970s dramas if a scene, or performance, or image, or (in Altman's case) camerawork doesn't capture my attention. Would love to rectify that going forward.
There's a ceiling to how beautiful I can find digital photography with such a harsh, blown-out color treatment: it just feels sterile after you lose a certain amount of detail. But, given the cheesiness of much of the script, there are lots of things to appreciate: the clearly articulated moral principles of its protagonist make you understand why he does what he does, even if you disagree with it, and Zahler has enough of a dark sense of humor to (for example) cut to wide shots for contrast.
Also, "Give Her a Ride" is just a pure earworm.
Ideal screening conditions for this, projected on 16mm in the back of the Oddball Films archive, at the conclusion of which the curator uttered, "I have no idea where he got a fucking grant to do that," and walked out, never to be heard from again.
You can watch it on Vimeo if you wish: vimeo.com/131832976