Shia LaBeouf sees dead people. Sorta. At the beginning of Fredrik Bond’s Charlie Countryman, Charlie (LaBeouf) is about to lose his mother (the always great Melissa Leo) to cancer. Charlie can’t take it and in her final moments escapes into the hospital corridor, slumping down in grief — grief for his mom and grief for himself since he is completely lost about what to do with the rest of his life. The poor kid was recently dumped by his long-term girlfriend (Aubrey Plaza) and feels aimless and empty. He knows he needs to do something big and bold but has no idea what that should be. As luck would have it, his mother’s newly released spirit suddenly appears in the hallway to give her boy some much-needed advice. But instead of offering platitudes about following his bliss, Mama has a strangely specific suggestion. Her mysterious plan makes no sense whatsoever but provides the movie with the rest of its convoluted plot: Charlie must drop everything and go to Bucharest. Huh?

Never one to question a direct order from the Great Beyond, Charlie heads to O’Hare and hops on the next trans-Atlantic flight. He finds himself sitting next to a talkative Romanian who soon gives him a chance to further develop his sixth sense. Once in Bucharest, Charlie meets his new friend’s daughter, Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood with a sassy red hairdo and heavy Romanian accent), a cellist with several unfortunate connections to the seedy Romanian underworld (red flag, Charlie!). Needless to say, Charlie falls instantly in love with Gabi and puts himself in one death-defying situation after another to try and win his woman.

charliecountryman-posterThis debut feature from award-winning commercial director Fredrik Bond gets points for originality, style, and an increasingly surreal tone. Shia LaBoeuf caused a mild uproar in the press when he said he was actually tripping on acid while filming certain scenes and, indeed, there are moments in this film that will make you feel like someone slipped you a hit of LSD. Charlie Countryman includes a bunch of performances that are fun to watch — no matter that some of them seem like they come from different movies. Mads Mikkelsen and Til Schweiger play extremely menacing Romanian mobsters while Rupert Grint and James Buckley provide comic relief as Charlie’s bumbling but lovable hostel mates. I have to hand it to Grint, an actor who obviously never “needs” to work again for making such unusual choices in his post-Weasley career. I have no doubt his publicists were wringing their hands when they learned that his two main sequences in this film involved overdosing on Viagra and getting superglued to Buckley.

The talented LaBeouf and Wood give their tortured meet-cute their best shot but the motivations of Charlie and Gabi are never brought into sharp focus and, as a result, any real interest in what happens to their relationship begins to plummet as fast as the Romanian economy.

And speaking of Central Europe’s financial woes, is it me or does the non sequitir plot point of Mrs. Countryman’s request for Charlie to hightail it to Bucharest scream “Romanian tax incentives for international film crews?” Not that the film is anything the Bucharest Tourist Board is likely to tout in its next ad campaign — the film presents the Romanian capital as a dark, scary, crime-ridden hellhole. When ghostly mama appears one last time to shrug her shoulders at Charlie for taking her advice so literally, you want to slap her and say, “What’s the deal, Melissa? You couldn’t have sent Shia to find himself in Paris?