Editor’s Notes: Ride is currently open in limited theatrical release.
It’s always interesting when an established, talented actor steps behind the camera. Though the quality of the story and even the overall film can range from engagingly inspired to mind-numbingly stale, it’s usually a safe bet that the performances will be on point. Walking away from Helen Hunt’s Ride, I found myself struck more by the film’s performances than its story. Although a good chunk of her writing leaves something to be desired, there’s a clear and palpable sense that Hunt created the best creative environment possible for her actors. The fact that all the actors are on their A-game makes the lulls in the script easier to forgive and allows for a pleasurable viewing experience.
The fact that all the actors are on their A-game makes the lulls in the script easier to forgive and allows for a pleasurable viewing experience.
Directing her second feature film and receiving her first sole writing credit, Helen Hunt stars as Jackie, a high-strung woman working for a New York publishing firm who is the epitome of Type-A. She takes dozens of phone calls an hour and is incredibly attached to her son Angelo, who is leaving home to go to NYU just up the road from their apartment. Much to his mother’s horror, Angelo drops out of college in favor of moving to LA to invest in surfing and immortalize himself as one of the next great novelists. Filled with vitriol for anything involving the west coast, Jackie immediately flies out to LA to stop her son from being devoured by the lazy, hippie-infested culture that is sure to be his downfall. Naturally, this will involve stalking Angelo’s every move.
Of all Ride’s storytelling shortcomings, saddling Jackie with one-dimensional crazed mother cliche might be its most egregious.
Of all Ride’s storytelling shortcomings, saddling Jackie with one-dimensional crazed mother cliche might be its most egregious. Jackie is too crazy and out of touch with reality to reap any sympathy from the audience. When your character sounds like the perfect pairing with Sandra Bullock’s character from All About Steve, perhaps some more script revisions would have been a good idea. While the comparison is a very worrisome one, it doesn’t condemn the film as a whole. It takes a while for Hunt to get her story rolling, but once it gets going it’s engages just fine. I’m sure there will be viewers for whom Jackie will be too hard to swallow, but those who can look past her initial annoyances will be in for some really fun moments. Though at first shrill and overbearing, Ride eventually reveals itself to be a funny and upbeat film.
As I mentioned earlier, it is the actors that are the film’s ultimate saving grace. There are lots of really great funny moments in the film, and many of them stem from the interactions between characters, not to mention that Hunt is quite proficient at striking the perfect balance between comedy and drama. Always a welcome presence no matter the size of the role, David Zayas is very enjoyable as Jackie’s straight-faced and overly earnest limo driver. Continuing to prove with his project choices that he is more than just a pretty face, Brenton Thwaites is completely believable as Angelo. Sure, perhaps his character could have given more to do seeing as though his entire existence is the story’s driving force, but you can’t fault him when he does fine work with what he’s given.
At the heart of the film is a romance between Hunt and Luke Wilson. Wilson plays a surfing instructor tasked with teaching the stubborn Jackie how to properly surf. The two share great chemistry, and it’s fun to see the two butt heads in a way that avoids the usual misogynistic overtones to which familiar setups resort. It’s a wonderful subversion of the Hollywood cliche where women’s bodies are used to help men during their mid- life crisis.
It’s hard not to watch Ride and spot multiple missed storytelling opportunities, particularly when the final minutes of the movie lack any sort of what is clearly intended to be an emotional punch. Thanks to a game cast and Hunt’s brisk and upbeat storytelling, Ride turns out being far more entertaining that it should be. Though it is without a doubt a movie whose parts are greater than their sum, Ride is the cinematic equivalent of easy- listening music. It may not be something for the ages, but it’s a perfectly fine and harmless way to spend 90 minutes. Strap in and enjoy the ride.
Ride is the cinematic equivalent of easy- listening music. It may not be something for the ages, but it’s a perfectly fine and harmless way to spend 90 minutes. Strap in and enjoy the ride.