“I gave up Jesus for Lent”
After watching a screening of the new film Rideshare at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival, I had two thoughts. One: the camera on my Blackberry is HORRIBLE in comparison to the amazing clarity of the iPhone HD 4’s this film was shot in its entirety on, even blown up to theatrical screen size; Two: very funny, cute, and improvised comedies can be made on an ultra-low budget of $34,000 when the bloated fiscal behemoths Hollywood churns out have more of a chance at failure than breaking even. With the plethora of distribution strategies at filmmakers’ disposal this days—VOD, Direct to DVD, internet download—we are going to see more and more quality entertainment like this ignoring box office returns for avenues catered to its specific strengths. And while I love the theatrical experience and never want to see it die off—I did luckily get to see this in such a venue—the new age of cinema can only be good. Creative minds like writer/director Donovan Cook are now allowed the freedom to experiment and create within their means and we as an audience get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
There are always going to be issues with new technology and the truth of the matter is, a phone is not going to possess the quality of a 35mm or RED camera. Rideshare has a few instances of sound not matching the visuals, the sun causes some weird color fluctuations on faces, and the limitations of a point and shoot entity do hinder its ability to create intricate shots besides static framing. But that is where the story comes in and Cook realizes this. The plot he has crafted to pit three anonymous individuals in the same Craigslist-advertised car trip for six-days from Los Angeles to Washington DC adapts to the device shooting it. These three strangers—Dr. Abe (Ryan Fox), Darlene (Susan Isaacs), and Lemonade (Narisa Suzuki)—become the cinematographers because the script dictates their need to film their progress so the owner of the vehicle knows nothing shady is occurring. It’s a goofy premise, sure, but it’s a goofy film. Cook’s endgame will tie the shaky aspects of convenience up; so don’t worry about it. Just bask in the fun onscreen and enjoy where their unscripted performances go.
The places they go are fantastic, utilizing the personas each actor has cultivated to progress through the growing pains of friendship making. They all have their faults—Abe is a paranoid worrier who tries to practice psychiatry any chance he can since no longer being able to practice it professionally; Darlene is a mess of nerves, hiding a dark secret behind her smile and self-studded clothing while manipulating every situation to her benefit; and Lemonade is a Japanese student with a bare-minimum grasp on English whose naïve innocence causes much angst due to a complete lack of responsibility in lieu of having a good time. They are all pretty much caricatures able to paint broadly and deliver big laughs with sarcastic wit and head-shaking absurdity. Fox and Isaacs weren’t even originally cast in the film, both coming along after their predecessors left two weeks before shooting started, but I don’t see how anyone could have possessed the same nonchalant cynicism of Abe or sensitive despair of Darlene. As for Lemonade, well Suzuki is stunning in the role, her fish-out-of-water situation ripe for comedy.
Their reasons for agreeing to this trip do play key roles in their motivations and attitudes, but Rideshare’s funniest moments come from the more random events occurring on the journey. Ad-libbing as they go, filling out Cook’s character and plot outlines, the trio build a strong rapport, one that allows for the numerous verbal spats and accidental desertions because we can see how much they learn to care for one another as the story moves along. Each state has its share of trials and tribulations, risking an irreparable fracture of the group, but the ability to laugh always wins out. Between a detour to the Four Corners monument and its serendipitous improvisation on behalf of the government to give the filmmakers a better joke; the hitchhiking, worldly Australian they meet; a Texan Road House dinner epitomizing Southern hospitality; two flat tires; an unplanned jaunt to the beach; and good times in Dolly World, there is never a lack of laughter. If you’re in a car with people you don’t know for this length of time, you either become best friends or your numbers decrease by the time you reach your destination.
It’s not all perfect, but that only adds to its charm. Some jokes fall flat and some moments of introspection and drama fail, but where one misstep falters, there is always a bounce in the next foot forward. Fox, Isaacs, and Suzuki all embody their characters and go for broke, unafraid to be buffoons for the success of the film. It’s hard not to single out Narissa’s Lemonade as the brightest star in the bunch, though, because the talent doesn’t lie. Always the center of attention, always the one Abe and Darlene must dote after and keep safe from her own actions, she never loses the smile or the childlike sense of wonder at seeing America. Her singing ability may be too good to keep her disjointed English from overcoming its fabrication, but the added skill does enhance the story and give it a welcome conclusion befitting what occurred before it. Cracks of Pikachu or riffs on her name do nothing to diminish her attitude, but how could they when her wardrobe only enhances it through new, more eccentric wares each day?
Oh, and Abe … my sister would treat a cross-country trip as a costume party too if she had the chance.
 The cast & director, SUSAN ISAACS, DONOVAN COOK, RYAN FOX & NARISA SUZUKI of RIDESHARE, the world’s first full-length feature film shot entirely with the HDiPhone4. ©Donovan Cook Prod., LLC
 Darlene, played by SUSAN ISAACS, shooting a scene in northern Arizona, near Four Corners for RIDESHARE, the world’s first full-length feature film shot entirely with the HDiPhone4. ©Donovan Cook Prod., LLC
 RYAN FOX of RIDESHARE, the world’s first full-length feature film shot entirely with the HDiPhone4. ©Donovan Cook Prod., LLC
courtesy of Rideshare official site