Ride (2014)

Ride (2014)
  • Time: 93 min
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Director: Helen Hunt
  • Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Helen Hunt, Luke Wilson, Robert Knepper


A mother travels cross-country to California to be with her son after he decides to drop out of school and become a surfer.

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  • When a film has as much heart at its core as Ride, it’s easy to overlook its predictable patterns and often shaky narrative choices. Ride marks the second directorial outing for Helen Hunt, a formidable and award-winning presence in the Nineties who has largely been missing in action for the last 15 years. Whether her infrequent appearances were due to Hunt choosing to focus on marriage and motherhood or falling victim to Hollywood’s disinterest in women over a certain age, she is one of those talents whose absence makes the heart grow fonder.

    Ride finds the actress-writer-producer-director in the hustle and bustle of New York City. Her Jackie is an editor at The New Yorker; high-strung, controlling, and not a little abrasive, she is unhealthily fused to her work and her teenage son Angelo (Brenton Thwaites). About to start his freshman year at NYU in the fall, Angelo is bristling at her overprotectiveness (“I’m moving 85 steps away from you,” he notes of the distance between the dorm and their home. “That doesn’t rate as going away to college.”) and her no-holds-barred criticism of his efforts at becoming a writer.

    These early scenes feature a series of hyperarticulate and combative exchanges between mother and son. Hunt won an Oscar for As Good As It Gets and she may be paying subtle homage to its director James L. Brooks, whose Terms of Endearment set the modern template for heated exchanges between a smothering parent and a child eager to escape from that parent’s clutches. The interactions grow grating very quickly, so it is a relief when Angelo decides to drop out of school and move to the West Coast where he can gain some life experience and focus on his love of surfing.

    Jackie, assuring her boss that she will remain accessible at all times, boards the next plane to L.A. to talk some sense into her son. “I am choking in that city…in that apartment,” he yells, trying to explain his decision to pursue his passion for surfing. “You’re not interesting to me anymore,” he continues, convinced that she could never understand, or even experience, what it feels like to be on a surfboard. Not one to back down from a challenge, Jackie is convinced that learning to ride the waves will be a breeze. After all, she swims 400 meters, three times a week at an indoor pool – surely surfing isn’t all that different?

    Ride hits its stride once Hunt is on that board or, more precisely, falling off it. Hunt has never been one to pander to the audience – Jackie can be deeply off-putting, so it makes it all the more satisfying to see Jackie’s hubris humbled by her constant wipeouts. Hunt ropes in Luke Wilson and David Zayas to play her laidback surf teacher and beleaguered personal driver, respectively. Their scenes are full of warmth and spark as the city mouse learns to relax and enjoy her life.

    If Hunt had relegated the story to that narrative strand and that trio of characters, Ride would have been a wholly gratifying film. One can understand why the predominant theme of motherhood and its catch-22 – raising a child to leave you – would appeal, but the central conflict is too strained in execution. Hunt also integrates a plot device that makes sense in the overall scheme of things, but is one that does a disservice to her character.

    Nevertheless, between Hunt and Wilson’s casually sexy chemistry, the well-shot surfing scenes, and Hunt’s radiant portrayal, Ride proves itself an ultimately heartfelt and enjoyable watch.

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