In case anyone needed a refresher, Bryan Reisberg’s Big Significant Things is here to make the rounds through yet another coming-of-age trajectory for an awkward white kid perched between adolescence and adulthood. This time the young man put through the trials of aging is the generically named New Jerseyite Craig Harrison (Harry Lloyd), about whom it’s hard to remember much after the credits roll. He’s a lanky brunette with a loose comb-over whose casually fitting, solid-colored wardrobe suggests he’s perhaps funding the unexciting vacation that constitutes the narrative through a series of J.C. Penney modeling gigs.
Craig has tentative plans with his girlfriend to move into a property in San Francisco (the current real-estate prices of which this film seems to have no concept), but before Big Significant Things begins, he’s already ditched her for a soul-searching trip down south, and all we see are his day-to-day travels to unremarkable small towns, interrupted here and there by calls with his partner in which he keeps up a vague lie about a work trip. In a cute play on the title, Craig takes various roadside pit stops at oversized tourist trifles, one of which—the World’s Largest Rocking Chair, off Route 66 in Missouri—predictably and paradoxically takes on symbolic significance when Craig purchases a more functional duplicate model of said rocking chair with the intention of using it for his future home. From that point on, the chair sits on top of Craig’s Volvo as a promise/harbinger of adult domesticity.
Such elementary visual language, feeling like a vestige from Zach Braff’s eye-rolling universe, anchors Reisberg’s approach here (which also makes room for the standard-issue travel montage scored to folky indie pop). We’re encouraged to consider the rooftop chair as a goofy but serious indication of Craig’s self-denial, his failure to greet the tidal wave of adulthood with maturity and poise. This gently critical perspective sits unevenly in Big Significant Things alongside the dubious proposal that Craig’s story is big and significant after all, as well as the more insufferable idea that it’s emblematic. When a possible romantic interest—an ethereal fish-out-of-water, Finn (Krista Kosonen), living with an exile’s sense of discomfort somewhere in Mississippi—is introduced in the movie’s second half, she’s snapped at merely for having the gall of not giving him the time of day at a bar, though of course charmless Craig ultimately gets his kiss anyway. In the film’s final movement, Kosonen’s character is brushed aside and turned, like all the rural rubes the movie fleetingly considers, into a more or less disposable rung on the ladder to Craig’s self-realization.
On his drive back north, Craig calls into a relationship therapy line on the radio and regales a macho airwaves personality with the story of his trip, the psychology behind it, and his uncharacteristic act of infidelity. One fed-up caller offers his two cents shortly after: “There are people out there with real problems and we have to listen to this hoarse you-know-what complain about ruining his life. Grow up.” Big Significant Things, whose anodyne tastefulness effectively lumps it into a big vat of likeminded Sundance-or-SXSW-endorsed offerings, apparently knows it’s a trivial document of privileged white-people problems, but that self-awareness oddly enough doesn’t stop it from being that exact thing.