Movie Review: Helen Hunt is a little too on-the-nose in “Ride”

rdSee Helen Hunt surf. Check out how well-preserved Helen Hunt looks in a wetsuit. Remember how good Helen Hunt handles biting, witty banter.
See Helen–or her character — try a little pot and get giggly.
Yes, “Ride” is the very definition of a “vanity project.” Hunt wrote and directed this pleasant-enough star vehicle, and it shows a refreshing self-awareness in the character she created for herself and the arc she created for her.
Jackie Durning is a brittle, smothering Type A New Yorker. Hard to see Hunt in helicopter mom mode? You haven’t been paying attention.
Jackie is in publishing. Her college-ready son (Brenton Thwaites) wants to be a writer, but all her feedback on his work is criticism.
They have a sophisticated, tetchy relationship. He calls her by her first name, she treats  him more like a spouse or boyfriend — constantly calling, supervising his admission to college.
A funny moment — he walks her from his college dorm to her front door, 85 steps and he’s “going AWAY to college?”
Then Angelo, the son, goes to L.A. to summer with his dad. His surfing hobby takes over, he withdraws from school and Jackie is on a plane, ready to risk career, savings and her dignity to stalk, nag and otherwise intervene on this would-be writer’s headstrong decision.
Hunt can’t avoid the L.A. vs. New York debate cliches. “You lose the ability to reason,” she gripes. “It’s…so…BRIGHT.”
But Angelo sees a different path, and all her banter can’t talk him out of it. She secretly takes surfing lessons in an effort to re-connect.
If Hunt casting herself as this highly-strung New Yorker is on-the-nose, making Luke Wilson the faintly dismissive laid-back surfer/surf instructor is even more so.
But Hunt and Wilson click, and the pratfalls in the surf, Jackie’s clumsy arrogance with her chauffeur (David Zayas) and her dabbling with the other part of surfer culture — she becomes “a woman who partakes” (pot) — is worth a giggle.
Thwaites does well by the interesting arc he has to play — discovering the allure of surfer life, and the trap it can become.
This isn’t that ambitious a role for the high-minded Oscar winner to tackle, but Jackie — whose actions have motivations — makes a journey that the testy-by-reputation and under-employed Hunt seems to relish. She travels from off-putting to vulnerable, lovable and charming, and all in just 93 minutes.

MPAA Rating: R for language and some drug use

Cast: Helen Hunt, Brenton Thwaites, Luke Wilson, David Zayas
Credits: Written and directed by Helen Hunt. A Screen Media release.

Running time: 1:33

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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