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‘Ride’: Story gets choppy for surfing writer-director-star Helen Hunt

By Randy Cordova | Gannett News Service

In “Ride,” Helen Hunt plays Jackie, a haughty, controlling New Yorker who has a tendency to suffocate her college-age son.

Angelo (Brenton Thwaites) dreams of being a writer, but it doesn’t help that Mom is a literary editor. The two squabble and bicker over a short story he has written. He’s leaving home for college, but not really: As he points out, his dormitory is a mere 85 steps from her front door.

Hunt also wrote the film, and initially provides the two with rat-a-tat-tat quips, as opposed to dialogue. As a screenwriter, she can be a bit obvious: It’s the kind of film in which the son addresses his mother by her first name.

Angelo heads out to Southern California for a quick visit with his father before school starts. Once there, he decides to skip college to embrace the life of a surfer. Jackie jumps on a plane and essentially begins stalking him, before she decides to take up surfing herself.

Jackie’s logic isn’t exactly easy to explain, but it’s amusing to see her marching on the beach in heels, with her chauffeur (David Zayas) traipsing behind. She eventually hires Ian, a surf instructor (Luke Wilson, laid-back and likable).

The screenplay remains wildly uneven once it hits the coast, with Jackie dropping brittle commentary about Californians and their sunny locale. But the movie, like Jackie, loosens up a bit, and her relationship with Ian adds a nice bit of warmth.

Hunt directs the film, and at times its tonal shifts are a bit jarring. The story veers into melodrama in the final act, as viewers learn the reason behind Jackie’s overbearing parenting style. (Hint: It’s sad). The segment feels like it belongs in another movie, even if it gives the actress a meaty scene, which she naturally plays well.

Then again, objectivity may not be one of Hunt’s strong points, as she is also one of the producers of “Ride.” One imagines she drove the lunch wagon to the set every day and sewed the costumes as well.

[s3r star=2.5/4]

Screen Media Films presents a film written and directed by Helen Hunt. Running time: 93 minutes. Rated R (for language and some drug use). Opens Friday at AMC South Barrington 30 and available on demand.