The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had With My Pants On both delivers everything one would expect from an indie road trip movie and throws in a few surprises along the way. It’s not just that the film twists the formula by following two women instead of men or a mixed group. Its musings on life feel like they come from a genuine emotional space. There’s some real and affecting beauty to be found here.
Writer/director Drew Denny adapted the film from a piece of performance art she made in honor of her dad a few years back, and there are heavy autobiographical elements throughout. Denny plays the main character, Andy, who embarks on a road trip alongside her best friend since childhood, Liv (Sarah Hagan). The pair travels from LA to Austin, where Liv has an audition to be in a movie, and along the way they scatter the ashes of Andy’s father across the Southwest.
One thing that immediately sets The Most Fun apart is its cinematography. Whereas most indie road films are content to stick to rundown motels and the Interstate, this one ventures into the most visually sumptuous landmarks it can find. From the winding canyons of the Sonoran Desert to the gypsum expanse of White Sands, this is a film with its eye on the horizon. Andy looks at one vista and says that it makes her understand why people want to believe in God, which is the perfect way to put it. Will Basanta, best known for the several-hundred-miles under-the-radar Jess + Moss, shot on both 16mm and digital, and both formats bring the imagery to astounding life.
The story follows every beat you’d expect of the road movie, though filtered through some “mumblecore” sensibilities. There is a sequence in a seedy bar, of course. There is a visit to an estranged parent, of courser. Andy and Liv get angry at each other and split for a time near the end, of coursest. But for the most part, the film earns these moments. The way the two interact, it’s almost a given that they’d storm away from the trip. Denny and Hagan feel like old friends. There’s a glowing intimacy between the two, even as old resentments begin to stir.
Over time, it becomes evident that Andy (whose lesbianism is simply matter-of-fact, a good model for film going forward) might have more than a platonic love for Liv, and that Liv might even return those feelings. There’s a worse version of this movie that makes this its focus, one that teases out the will-they-or-won’t-they. Instead, this is just one facet of their relationship, and of their journey. The movie leaves the question open-ended, but it’s all about open endings. Andy is still working through her grief over her father, best demonstrated in an amazing scene where she views old home movies on a projector shining on a canyon wall. There’s no tidy bows slapped on these feelings.
The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had With My Pants On is a typical road film, a perfect love letter to the American Southwest, and a solid emotional piece. It doesn’t do much new, but it does it with gentle humor and a full, resonant heart.