If you were casting a movie about a mismatched pair of characters on the run, you could do a lot worse than signing Tatiana Maslany and Richard Dreyfuss. She is the chameleon-like Canadian star of Orphan Black who specializes in young women on the edge; he’s the veteran American actor who has always offered a strong line in tender-hearted grouches. If Cas & Dylan can’t raise many sparks from this pair, blame it on the boss man: actor Jason Priestley in his directorial debut.
As an actor Priestley seems ready to take risks – he has utterly abandoned the goody-two-shoes image of his Beverly Hills 90210 days for some wild work on the Canadian cable drama Call Me Fitz – but as a neophyte director he’s playing it painfully safe. Cas & Dylan may have big-name talent for a small Canadian movie but mainly it has tired Hollywood formulas.
The film begins when Dylan Morgan (Maslany), an aspiring young writer, hitches a ride from Winnipeg cancer doctor Cas Pepper (Dreyfuss). She is fleeing a violent boyfriend; he is setting off into the sunset, declining treatment for an inoperable brain tumour. After Cas inadvertently hits the boyfriend with his SUV, they leave him for dead; now they are on the lam and bound to each other, whether they like it or not.
Yup, it’s a road movie (with some gorgeous Rockies scenery.) It’s also a cross-generational movie about two opposing types inevitably teaching the other about life: she needs to get real; he needs to get loose, and, of course, in a paint-by-numbers script by television writer and producer Jessie Gabe, they both do. The plot proves anti-dramatic and slack as Gabe tosses out a series of potential threats (the hit-and-run, Dylan’s continual shoplifting, another car accident, a drug deal) that never amount to anything. And lastly, as Cas plans his exit, Cas & Dylan attempts a discussion of end-of-life issues that is both superficial and inevitably sentimental.
Wildly energetic performances could perhaps disguise some of these problems – or at least keep an audience entertained during a slow ride – but Priestley does not draw from his performers the work we all know they can do. Dreyfuss’ grouchiness and Maslany’s impetuousity are too gently predictable to raise the stakes; Cas & Dylan is mildly amusing in spots, occasionally touching in its warmth, but mainly it’s a lost opportunity.