Six teenage friends take one last summer trip and camp at beautiful Big Sur, CA. After a night of partying, they uncover a horrific truth that will destroy their friendships forever. This is Carlos Azucena and Wayne Winterstein’s The Last Trip.
The Last Trip is mellow, calm, and nice. But for this type of movie that is the wrong combination. It’s sweet when it should be rude, and rude when it should be sweet. The result is a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to say. Does it want to be funny? Does it want to be sexy? Does it want to be touching? We are never really sure what points is it attempting to make about people in their late teens during a time in their lives when they are too old to be children, and too young to be adults. It’s a coming-of-age picture that tries to be both shocking and dramatic, but ever so often its better nature takes over, and it throws in sweetness and calm right in the middle of a confrontation. Just when we think the film is building up to an explosion of some sort, it pulls back and ends up feeling anticlimactic. Despite a deadly serious final few minutes we feel a little lost watching it because, in the end, nothing seems to lead to anything.
The plot of The Last Trip is the standard road trip movie fare, friends get together, jump in a car that is far too small for all of them, and travel across the country. They get involved in a few scrapes and incidents, fall for each other, try to sleep with each other, and ultimately fall out with each other. The actors play stock characters that we have seen before in other teen movies. There is the good girl, the jock, the nerd, the slut, and variants of the type. Interestingly The Last Trip also has its own version of American Pie’s Stifler in Thomas played by Jonathan Sterritt, but in one of its cleverer twists, this Stifler becomes much less endearing and the catalyst for the final eruption.
What does stand out with The Last Trip is the way it begins all bright and shiny, giving us no idea of the change that is coming. In the opening scenes, the direction from Azucena and Winterstein is full of energy and excitement. There is some clever use of split screens as the actors speak on the phone, and the editing is quick and tight as we are introduced to each of the characters we are going to be spending the next 75 minutes with. The traveling shots from within and outside of the vehicles have a hand-held improvisational feel about them. There is a lot of use of montage in the opening 20 minutes and some of these scenes do go on for far too long, but it does give the film some scope and the scenery is gorgeous.
The Last Trip suffers from a lack of dramatic events and an inability to push the envelope, but the film builds to a far more serious conclusion than any of the teen movies it borrows from. This attempt to create a much darker coming-of-age tale is worth praising Azuncena and Winterstein for.