Wheeler Review

Wheeler (2017) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin


Director: Ryan Ross
Writers: Stephen Dorff,  Ryan Ross
Stars: Stephen Dorff,  Kris Kristofferson,  Audrey Spillman

Having just watched “Rudderless” a few months back I couldn’t help but assume that “Wheeler” would have a similar feel to it. “Wheeler” is the story of an aspiring and upcoming musician from Texas who travels to Nashville, Tennessee with the lifelong ambition of trying his hand at country music.

Stephen Dorff portrays the title character which looks like under prosthetic make up especially around the nose and successfully takes his character on an authentic singer / songwriter journey. With the help of supporting artists and people in the business who see the potential in “Wheeler.” He converses with real people in real locations throughout the movie and this adds to the authenticity of the story as it flits between fiction and nonfiction.

“Wheeler” to me was interesting enough to keep me watching where this story would go. Filmed in almost documentary style made this movie not as slick or presented in the same fashion as “Rudderless” I began to discover that there wasn’t many similarities and obviously that would become more apparent in the storytelling.

Emotionally I found it difficult to connect with the main character at first as although losing his father hit him hard and was explained beautifully through Wheeler’s music there is not enough to understand or relate to the character as his development is really explained through intercut scenes interviewing people and family in his life and this is where it becomes obvious (well at least to me) how the story ends.

Stephen Dorff to be fair is a competent musician and a fantastic singer. He portrays the character as best as he can and appears to have invested in Wheeler’s characteristics. At times using real people affects the scenes with Dorff though as occasionally the sequences are a little flat and I felt Dorff carried the film a little too often to compensate.

The storyline is to me really only picks up in the last half hour when “Wheeler” drops the bombshell of the tragedy behind the death of his 4 year old daughter who drowned and it’s really only then you begin to understand the characters pain and unhappiness that is explained through his music. The scene is hard hitting and Dorff plays the scene beautifully and emotionally.

Interlaced with cameos from the country music business, “Wheeler” is a decent attempt at the rise to country and western superstardom only let down slightly with underdeveloped characters and relying too much on the one actor to carry the movie. Nevertheless the music is enjoyable and I recommend watching the movie for the music alone which is beautiful.

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