“I actually really like the paint in the bedroom”
A road movie that surprisingly doesn’t fall prey to the easy tropes of its brethren, Take Me Home uses the American landscape as a backdrop to its journey through the tumultuous expanse of two lost souls. States fly by in seconds without a mention, just glimpses outside the windows of the illegally operated taxicab taking our leads from New York City to Encinitas, California. Where most would bask in the ability to montage famous sites, writer/director/star Sam Jaeger only sprinkles in the Chrysler Building, St. Louis Gateway Arch, and Grand Canyon while instead focusing on the troubled thirty-somethings unaware of what the future may bring.
An out-of-work photographer—evicted and impersonating a cab driver with a vehicle he won at auction—Thom (Jaeger) has hit rock bottom. With DVD collection in tow alongside the rest of his possessions shoved inside the trunk, he places his hipster driving cap on and trolls the airport for any unsuspecting travelers too busy to care about the car they so willingly let drive them home. It’s no surprise then when Claire (Sam’s real life wife, Amber Jaeger) pulls open the door and plops down to cry with only the word, “Drive” to explain where she’d like to go. Stuck in a life she can no longer blindly accept as good, a possible cheating husband (Brennan Elliott‘s Eric) at home and an estranged father who recently suffered a heart attack on the Pacific coast do nothing to help the flood of emotions pouring out.
And so it is a match made in snarky heaven once Thom vindictively takes her depression’s brusque superiority to his advantage. Letting her pass out on the backseat with a declaration of being able to pay him whatever he needs to shut up and go, it isn’t until they hit Pittsburgh that she realizes what has happened. Instead of letting it become one more punch to the gut, however, Claire uses the opportunity to ignore her fear of flying and still be able to see the Dad she hasn’t talked to in twenty years. A deal is struck and the exchange of transportation for five grand plus accommodations sends them cross-country as strangers separated by her unwillingness to open up and his compulsion to lie. It’s in their exchanges en route where Take Me Home truly shines as the Jaegers’ marriage comes through their characters’ chemistry and timing together.
Well-known to anyone who watches the wonderful “Parenthood”, Sam Jaeger is an actor with a uniquely nuanced charisma. Wasted in the show’s first season, his Joel has really come into his own the past two years, making him one of the more complicated and interesting of the bunch. Those traits exist here as well in both performance and screenplay. There is a biting sarcasm and passionate cynicism in his empathetic loner forcing him to become an angry person as a result of his circumstances but never truly turning him into one. Thom and Claire each have their moments of wanting to get away and wallow in self-pity only to find they can’t. But while that inability is rooted in not wanting to be alone, they are too stubborn to let such a need for emotional assistance keep them together and instead let the reality they’re broke do the job.
Take Me Home is an indie film that appears very close to its creator’s heart. Sam is the better actor, but I believe the strength of the work helps compensate for what’s lacking in his costar’s performance. By no means bad, Amber Jaeger simply seems as though she is ‘acting’ when left to her own devices. When she and Sam go at it tit-for-tat, however, she keeps up nicely and really throws her weight around to win you over in order to care about her plight of sorrow at the tail end of the trek. Conversely, we give into Thom’s character as early as his first scene rushing to a job interview through the rain. Unable to help himself from forgetting things in his car, picking up the trash cans he ran over—a trademark joke—and losing his jacket on the way to the door, we pity his everyman through our smiles.
And while watching these two bicker and discover the deeper seeded details setting them on their path would have been enough—moments like Thom relentlessly talking and spewing nonsense or laughing at and pulling no punches when it comes to Claire’s sea of emotions are great—it’s even better to see the small supporting cast succeed with them. In an unplanned visit to Boulder we are able to finally see inside Thom’s past through mother (Cristine Rose) and father (Victor Garber). Consummate parents, he is laconic and cold in his actions while she overcompensates with a half-fake cheeriness to mask the distance that has grown in the years their son has been away. Rose is phenomenal in the role doling out her Asian chicken and Garber hits home with an “Are you okay on money” in lieu of saying goodbye.
Lin Shaye is also a treat as Claire’s mom, playing the eccentric like always to sell her character as the kind of person who would doll her third grade daughter up like the school picture horror story told. Elliott also re-enters the fray to set up the inevitable climactic revelation of newfound romance between our two road-weary travelers, but thankfully doesn’t find himself trapped in a cliché-ridden ambush. Instead we’re allowed some time to watch Thom and Claire digest what transpired the last five days and discover who they want to be without jumping towards a knee-jerk decision. We’re treated with a couple more out-there lines from Michelle Krusiec, finally see Amber let go of the button-up professional she’d become to really see her beauty, and are given a wonderful payoff via postmarked package to finally let the stars align.
Take Me Home becomes the kind of romantic comedy that allows its obvious roads appear natural rather than inevitable. The chemistry between its leads goes a long way to accepting the good times and especially the bad as some brilliant scenes like Sam pilfering a hotel’s continental breakfast help the comedy excel. A breath of fresh air in a genre hijacked by the Hollywood machine, I can’t help but hope for good things to come from this sweet little gem of a movie.
 Sam Jaeger as Thom in “Take Me Home”
 Amber Jaeger as Claire in “Take Me Home”
 Sam Jaeger, Cristine Rose, Victor Garber, and Amber Jaeger in “Take Me Home”
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