Review: ‘Sacramento’ (2024), starring Michael Angarano, Michael Cera, Kristen Stewart and Maya Erskine

June 13, 2024

by Carla Hay

Maya Erskine, Michael Angarano, Michael Cera and Kristen Stewart in “Sacramento” (Photo courtesy of Vertical)

“Sacramento” (2024)

Directed by Michael Angarano

Culture Representation: Taking place in California, the comedy/drama film “Sacramento” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Asians and Latin people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two estranged best friends have a tension-filled and sometimes wacky reunion when they go on a road trip together from Los Angeles to Sacramento. 

Culture Audience: “Sacramento” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and road trip “buddy” movies with good acting.

The comedy/drama “Sacramento” has an over-used formula of two people with opposite personalities who go on a trip together. However, the cast members’ believable performances capably balance the movie’s shifting tones of whimsical and weighty. “Sacramento” had its world premiere at the 2024 Tribeca Festival.

Directed by Michael Angarano, “Sacramento” (which was filmed on location in California, mostly in the cities of Los Angeles and Sacramento) is about life’s growing pains and the crossroads of decisions about maturity and lifestyles that are often experienced by people in their 30s. Christopher Nicholas Smith and Angarano co-wrote the screenplay for “Sacramento,” which begins by showing protagonist Rickey (played by Angarano) by himself in a wooded area near a creek. Standing on the opposite side of the creek is a stranger named Tallie (played by Maya Erskine), who shouts out this sexual flirtation to Rickey: “Nice dick!”

Rickey (a never-married bachelor with no children) is intrigued by this stranger and is immediately attracted to Tallie. He suggests that they spontaneously get in the creek and swim to each other. She agrees. He strips down to his underwear, but Tallie suddenly changes her mind and doesn’t go in the water.

It sets the tone of what types of personalities they have: Rickey is very impulsive, and many people in his life think he’s irresponsible. Tallie is less likely to be a risk taker and is more of a realist. Rickey decides to swim to Tallie. Over the rest of the trip, they flirt with each other and eventually hook up sexually. What happens to their relationship is eventually revealed in the movie.

One year later, in Los Angeles, Rickey’s on-again/off-again best friend Glenn Mullen (played by Michael Cera) is assembling a crib for his soon-to-be-born first child. Glenn gets frustrated because he can’t put together the crib in the way he thinks it’s supposed to be. Glenn becomes so angry, he shakes off one side of the crib in frustration. It soon becomes obvious in other scenes that Glenn is a neurotic control freak with an obsessive-compulsive attitude about cleanliness and sticking to routines.

Glenn’s supportive wife Rosie (played by Kristen Stewart) is laid-back and very understanding about Glenn’s quirks. Adding to Glenn’s overall frustration, he has recently been laid off from an unnamed job. Rosie, who works from home in an unnamed job, has offered to be the household breadwinner until Glenn finds another job. She suggests that Glenn can be a stay-at-home father for a year while she financially supports the family. Glenn somewhat reluctantly agrees.

Based on conversations in the movie, Rickey and Glenn have known each other since they were children. But as adults, Rickey has been in and out of Glenn’s life. Even though they both live in the Los Angeles area, it’s not unusual for Rickey to cut off contact with Glenn for several months and then make contact and expect them to resume ther friendship right where it left off. This flakiness has made Glenn feel very estranged from Rickey.

But there would be no “Sacramento” movie if Rickey and Glenn didn’t have a reunion. Rickey, who is chronically unemployed, is seen trying to lead a grief support group that used to be led by his deceased father. Rickey’s style of counseling is considered too aggressively judgmental, so he’s asked to leave the group.

Feeling lonely, Rickey suddenly shows up unannounced at the home of Glenn and Rosie. Glenn isn’t happy to see Rickey, but he’s polite enough to make time to talk to Rickey. Through a series of events, Rickey convinces Glenn to go on a road trip to Sacramento (which is about 386 miles northeast of Los Angeles) because Rickey says his father recently died, and his father’s dying wish was to have his ashes spread in Sacramento. This “dying wish” is a lie. Early on in the trip, when Glenn isn’t looking, Rickey spontaneously fills a tennis ball container with dirt and pretends that the container has the ashes of his dead father.

The rest of “Sacramento” has some clichés from many other road trip movies of this ilk: The two travelers frequently bicker with each other. They meet unusual characters along the way. Something goes wrong with the vehicle being used for the trip, such as running out of gas, a mechanical malfunction, or the vehicle gets stolen or towed. And as defenses come down, the two quarrelling people on the road trip show vulnerability to each other and reveal personal secrets.

What saves “Sacramento” from watered-down mediocrity is the fact that the main characters are written in such a specific way, they can’t be described as shallow or generic. Angarano and Cera have genuine chemistry with each other that makes it easy for viewers to believe and feel invested in this volatile friendship, which is at the heart of the film. “Sacramento” doesn’t do anything that’s really inventive (and some of the scenarios are a bit too much like a sitcom), but it’s a solid option for people who want to see an entertaining film that will make viewers laugh, cringe and possibly feel some sentimentality.

Vertical will release “Sacramento” in select U.S. cinemas on a date to be announced.

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