German filmmaker Werner Herzog has undoubtedly inspired many budding directors to follow their bliss—or, more likely, dive headfirst into their own madness. You wouldn’t think he’d prompt someone to walk 1,200 miles, however. Yet that’s exactly what Linas Phillips decides to do in this doc. Taking his cue from Herzog’s penchant for marathon treks, Phillips vows to journey from Seattle to Los Angeles by foot so he can meet his idol. There’s just one problem: Herzog will be in Burma when his acolyte arrives in Southern California. I wish you luck, the elder statesmen of extreme moviemaking says via a phone message, but you’ll have to find another reason to do this.
Not to be deterred, Phillips hits the road anyway, chronicling the various outrageous characters he meets along the way. The director’s exchanges with the born-again Christians, hostile drunks and battered sad sacks are the most interesting parts of his film, painting an alternate reality of bruised, sometimes ugly Americana. Less successful than his Ross McElwee–isms are the first-person diary entries, which swerve from gonzo to narcissistic in a blink—especially in the cringeworthy moments when Phillips seems convinced he’s one of Herzog’s angry visionaries à la Aguirre.