TEENAGERS ARE SURLY, divorce is hard, caring for aging parents is complicated. If life hasn't taught you these truths, indie films have filled in the blanks by now. Writer/director Justin Schwarz's debut feature, The Discoverers, should be filed under Indie Family Drama, Quirky—which means we get those requisite life lessons served with a gentle twist.
Lewis (Griffin Dunne) is a part-time community college professor who's put all of his hopes, ambitions, and future career prospects into a 6,000-page book about Lewis and Clark. (More specifically, it's about their slave, York.) To that end, he's packed up his kids and headed west—to Portland!—to a symposium where he hopes to drum up interest in his book. Those plans are promptly thwarted by the death of his mother, leaving Lewis saddled with primary responsibility for his estranged, addled father, a Lewis and Clark reenactor who goes deep into a frontiersman fantasy after the death of his wife. This proves problematic when, on a trek through the wilderness, he threatens to take his gun-toting fantasies dangerously far.
The Discovers is a bit long, the plot's over-determined, and the surly teenagers are boilerplate. But even if it doesn't exactly cover new ground, the actors are likeable enough to keep this journey of discovery—metaphorical and otherwise—moving along.