Ride (v.f. Le grand saut) is the recent directorial attempt of celebrated Oscar-winning actress Helen Hunt. She wrote and directed the film, in addition to playing the lead. I have enjoyed Helen Hunt’s films in the past and her acting abilities are beyond question. Even a small (relatively unpublicized) film like The Sessions (2012) has Hunt shining through and through with a stellar performance. I am not sure I can say the same about Ride. While Hunt does an above average job in her role as a divorced, fifty-year-old successful editor and mother of a twenty-something, the story is weak and executed with passable ease.
Hunt plays Jackie, the Blackberry busy New York editor whose one-line scathing reviews of people’s writings has her excel at what she does. Not even a few frames go by in the film that her work phone doesn’t ring. The ringtone however is horribly annoying and its shriek doesn’t get any easier on the ears even with repetition. Her twenty year old son Angelo (played by Australian actor Brenton Thwaites) wants to become a writer and looks to his mother for guidance/some critique and oftentimes the break in his stories that he needs. She is a hard-task master and wants him to hone his skills as a writer before trying to get published. The two are constantly at loggerheads and in a verbal match of jibes and mother-son rhetoric. The idea, though interesting, is not very convincing on screen.
Angelo decides to drop out of school and move to Los Angeles, to live with his father’s new family over the summer. He discovers that there is more to life than the high rises of New York and the fast pace that is not meant for a writer. He spends days surfing, walking around in flip-flops, imagining a life where the sun, sand and water would be fillers to a successful writing career.
Jackie follows him to LA after she finds out that he dropped out. There is a confrontation between mother and son when her car bumps into his on a trafficless beach drive somewhere in LA. He challenges her to try and live in LA. For someone who is paranoid about getting her hair wet while swimming, LA is just not the place for her. Jackie’s condescension of LA is challenged and she decides to prove to her son that surfing in California is no match for her successful work life in New York. She picks up a surfboard and takes to surfing the self-taught way. After a few comedic attempts she meets the surf instructor (Luke Wilson) who then helps her ride the waves. They have a predictable romantic entanglement, where Jackie uses lines like “Use me for my body before I dump you,” which just makes her more unconvincing.
The only highlight of the film (other than the stunning Pacific Ocean) is when Jackie walks into her ex-husband’s home to confront Angelo. She walks right up to his room where he is hanging out with a female friend. Emotions run high and name calling begins, with Angelo demanding to be let go from her nagging, overbearing motherly duties. He feels that she is overcompensating simply because Jackie is still struggling with her guilt of having lost her first born because she wasn’t watching over her children.
Jackie gets the message and decides that it is time for her to step back. She is fired from her job for being absent a few weeks, so she decides to leave her past behind and chooses to stay in LA. On the flipside Angelo has an epiphany moment that living life on the beach and surfing his way to literary success is not even a dream sequence. He decides to go back to New York and to school. With some likeable performances, but a lacklustre narrative, Ride suggests that Helen Hunt still needs some work wearing the director’s hat to try and recreate the powerhouse magic of her acting prowess.
The film is out now on DVD.