(1) What I liked about it: I liked trying to figure out the basis of its cult cred. Cool car, check. Anti-hero, check. Gratuitous nudity, check. Vaguely defined mysticism, check. Counter-culture, check. I suppose it has a sort of purity about it too that’s admirable. There’s no Macguffin here. He drives because he drives. They chase him because he’s there.
(2) What I didn’t like about it: The checks just didn’t add up to a satisfying movie experience for me. I knew going into it the movie is known for having existentialist themes, and I kept trying to read them into the imagery, to appreciate Kowalski as an anti-hero fearlessly staring into the abyss of the Nevada desert, but it just didn’t do it for me. A lot of people like this movie though. According to the Wiki, Steven Spielberg named it one of his favorite movies of all time, so maybe I just didn’t get it. Also from The film’s Wiki entry, is this nice tidbit that makes it sound like a re-write of W. Somerset Maugham Appointment in Samara: “The viewer is left guessing why Kowalski insists on driving to San Francisco immediately and then drives heedlessly across four states to his death. Kowalski says only, “I gotta be in Frisco 3 o’clock tomorrow afternoon.” When Jake scoffs that he’s being put on, Kowalski says, “I wish to God I was.” Viewed in that light, it definitely earns some bonus cool points.