R | 93 min | ComedyReview - Matt Mungle - @themungle
Helen Hunt wrote, directed, and stars in the new mother/son film, RIDE.
When Jackie's (Hunt) son Angelo (Brenton Thwaites) would rather drop out of school and move to the other side of the continent than have to endure his mother's smothering ways she knows there has to be an issue. And it is not so much that she smothers him but that she pushes her son to achieve his potential instead of nurturing him on the journey. The concept of doing what makes you happy is lost on her. Angelo wants to be a great writer and so he moves from NY to CA to live with his dad, surf, and find himself. When Jackie heads out west to track him down and hopefully mend their relationship she discovers what it means to actually live.
The film is a comedy but with lots of drama added by Jackie's personality. She is a New Yorker to the core and can't understand the Santa Monica mindset. She immediately takes control of whoever is around her, starting with her hired driver Ramon (David Zayas). He thinks she is nuts but at the same time has a job to do. They eventually form an unlikely friendship that adds a lot of humor throughout the movie. Jackie wants to learn to surf to prove to her son that she is capable of doing anything. She hires a local instructor (Luke Wilson) to "teach" her and learns that she doesn't know it all. It is through this process of surfing that her walls are torn down and she finally gets outside of her head enough to think straight.
The character of Jackie is very complex. Hunt does a good job of portraying her as the obsessive workaholic who is obviously trying to bury her emotions in busyness. As the story unfolds you get a glimpse into her past and start to realize what causes her to be the mom and woman she is. Jackie and Angelo both grow in an understanding of each other. But more importantly they find a lot out about themselves. The film doesn't try and fix everything in 91 minutes. Instead it creates a foundation of healing so that you can rest easy knowing the characters will move forward in a positive manner.
Thwaites is an up and comer who knows how to grab a role and flesh it out. At times he might seem a tad overly angry with his mom but the emotion also lets you know that this has been building for most of his life. He is looking for something inwardly and outwardly and Jackie has no idea how to direct him. Wilson's character is the only one who seems to know how to put Jackie in her place. Luke is the same as we would expect. He seems at home in the surfing world and is believable as the laid back CA surfer. But at the same time he doesn't try and "Jeff Spicoli" it up but keeps it appropriate to his age.
Hunt is a terrific actress and here she proves she can write and direct as well. This isn't a powerhouse movie to be studied and modeled after. But it is a solid piece of film-making and delivers its point in an entertaining fashion. It has heart and you see the characters move in the emotion. RIDE is rated R for language and some drug use. It is an adult film that tackles adult situations. Neither the language nor the drug use is rampant and the redeeming qualities far outweigh the negative. I give it 3 out of 5 Jelly Fish stings. Fans of Hunt will be pleased with the offering and others will enjoy the ride as well.