The plot in Southlander is, at best, a distraction: Chance (Rory Cochran), a struggling keyboard player, finally lands a touring gig based on his new keyboard, a 1969 Moletron. But someone steals it from his car after he spends the evening with the lead singer, Rocket (singer/songwriter Beth Orton). His quest to get the keyboard back takes him through the "Southlander" newspaper and leads him to all sorts of "off-beat" Angelinos.
For a film shot for next-to-nothing on digital video, there is an amazing amount of quasi-stars on display. Alt-rock musician Beck is a given; director/writer Steve Hanft played in his band at various points and directed videos for several of his singles, including Loser. Orton and Hank Williams III also make small appearances, while Cochran ("CSI: Miami") and Laura Prepon ("That 70's Show") cross over from television.
In addition, the musicians that appear in the film contribute to an excellent soundtrack, as does the late Elliott Smith.
But the "script," as it were (many of the scenes were improvised) is anywhere from barely passable to straight-out awful. Larry David and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" it certainly is not.
What is probably supposed to carry Southlander is the characters. So much of the film is organized episodically: Rory drives somewhere, meets new weird L.A. person, gets next clue as to where to find the keyboard. But the performances by most of the "characters" are forced and showy, not grounded in any sense of reality. There are really weird people here in southern California – I've met them – but they are not consciously weird. They have their own motivations and goals. These characters do not.
Also, while the difficulties in producing a feature-length film are numerous and tough to overcome, the production values for Southlander are distracting. Bright light washes out color in so many shots, all on screen graphics are illegible and the sound picks up distracting background noise and room tone.