mojaveDirected and written by talented and Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan, Mojave indicates that Monahan is better at writing movies than directing them. On his next try, he should take a course in Directing 101.  He has a talented cast with moments that are enthralling, but these factors barely compensate for moments of inauthenticity and emotional contradiction.

Thomas, played well by Garrett Hedlund, is a well-known filmmaker who is filthy rich but troubled. He goes on a journey into the Mojave Desert to set himself apart from his life of prosperity, coked-up producers, and seedy agents. He hopes to find comfort and peace. All the same and one of the inconsistencies of the story, Thomas demonstrates the opposite. He screams at the coyotes, drinks, and drives crazily. He even crashes his jeep. Stranded with less than a gallon of water and some smokes, he heads off to nowhere. It obvious he is heading for a death wish. Then, he sees a figure over the horizon.

The figure is Jack, played well by Oscar Isaac, who appears at Thomas’ campfire. Jack has a screw loose with backwoods intelligence. He talks non-sequitur about Shakespeare, Jesus, and government corruption. All in all, he is downright evil. Thomas and Jack start fighting with Thomas leaving him unconscious by the fire.

From this point on, the story gets mighty crazy, convoluted, and just plain wild, depicting the worse of Hollywood.  The movie is really about men confronting their demons. The cinematography by Don Davis is magical with wide shots of moonlit landscapes and dark, foreboding interiors.

Mark Wahlberg shows up as the over-the-top, coked-up producer, and Thomas’ producing partner.  He offers comic relief to the high-tension testosterone movie. I am not sure that was Monahan’s intention.

Which brings me to the conclusion that I would have liked to have known the characters better, so I could understand their motives and actions. Otherwise, it is just too confusing.

I am sure Monahan will direct another movie. But, his dance card is a bit full with 10 screenwriting gigs, so it will be some time before we see him take another jab.