Linoleum (2022) is cinema of unbridled ambition, playing into humanity's larger quest into the unknown and using that wanderlust to its advantage. Whether or not it makes any sense is beside the point because it is up to the viewer to decide just how much optimism they choose to invest in the uncontrollable aspects of their lives and how much they believe they can actually control their own destinies. Directed by Colin West, the film follows the Edwin family, specifically its patriarch Cameron (Jim Gaffigan,) as he grapples with strange, unexplained occurrences while managing the pressures of his failed public access television show. What follows in the film, explored across its main characters, can be looked at as a reminder that while we can't stop time's eternal march, our potential for greatness never has to fade away.
The film is able to manage screen time among its ensemble cast effectively over the course of its runtime,as each major family member is clearly defined, even if together they make for a very indie movie-looking idea of a nuclear family to the point where it feels like self-parody but given how literally this film has its head in the clouds, it's not a distracting thing to notice as it's clearly in line with the overall tone. The film's major problem lies more with how it tells its story. In its beginning, Linoleum has many plot threads to lay out — there are unexplained crashes, uncomfortable feelings, and unrealized expectations befalling the main characters, but it feels as though the story takes ages to chart any meaningful development for either. True to its theme, the film is spinning its wheels breadcrumbing in details that are either out of left field or in anticipation of a major third-act twist that puts all its eggs in one emotional basket. Given the sweet nature with which Linoleum ultimately treats its characters, the saccharine endgame can be effective, if you can overlook how the experience slows its roll for an hour before it rapidly unravels.
To go along with the quirky casting, Lineoleum's look and feel are similarly styled in ways that feel familiar to this type of indie family drama.The colors are saturated to the point of bloom; it's a look I don't dislike because it feeds into the wild-eyed, childish nature of the way it confronts middle-aged feelings. The score can come off as a somewhat typical interpretation of family-friendly sci-fi, which is again true to the aesthetic of Bill Nye The Science Guy that the father character of Cameron is written to draw heavy inspiration. Yet despite the conformity, it often comes across as pale, because where Bill Nye's show was actually pretty grounded in its approach to educating its audience, Linoleum takes a highly speculative and romanticized swing at its metaphysical and theoretical theming. The style of this film is fairly considered and consistently executed. Unfortunately, it's just stuck in the body of an overlong family drama with characters ripped from a Noah Baumbach film in terms of their stubborn complexities and occasional expletive outbursts. It feels like this film was made for a particular type of cinemagoer, that who finds magic in the stars; when it prepares for liftoff it leaves all its other viewers on the ground wondering what it was all about.
If you frequent the cinema of hope and wonder, if grand emotional gestures get you weepy regardless of sense or plot, then it is fair to say that this film has something in store for you. There's not much room left for those with less of a sweet tooth, seeking grounded family drama. Linoleum is a tale both uplifting and cautionary, for looking up at the sky too long takes your attention from the relationships you develop here at home.