Popcorn Preview: Free Ride

Free Ride (2013)
Cast includes: Anna Paquin (The Piano), Cam Gigandet (Easy A), Drea de Matteo (The Sopranos), Liana Liberato (Trust), Lloyd Owen (Monarch of the Glen), Ava Acres (Despicable Me 2)
Writer/Director: Shana Betz (Girls! Girls! Girls!)
Genre: Drama | Crime (86 minutes)

Ohio 1977... This time, he nearly beats her to death as her daughter helplessly watches. "Sandy, it's Chris... I need to get the girls outta here." Christina surprises her oldest daughter MJ, by showing up at school with her little sister, Shell, and a car packed and ready to go. "We're going to Florida... I called Sandy. She said she could get me a job... as simple as that." But MJ wants to know if Christina called her mother. "I'm not gonna have her tell me what a looser I am." Christina and Sandy have been friends ever since they were dancers together, a few years ago. It's not clear what the job is, but "the cleaning part is just for now," says Sandy. "Do you think he's gonna like me?" Christina asks. Sandy feels he will... "You're good looking." "Why does that matter?" "It matters." In the meantime, while Christina works, teen-aged MJ is responsible for her little sister. About the gum in her pocket... "Go back and tell the store lady you stole it. We're not trash."

Christina's first assignment is the "bird house." It's a big fancy house with assorted exotic talkative birds. The only thing she needs to do is dust furniture and sign for a package. "After that... the fun stuff." "Yeah, but doing what?" "It's just pot," says Sandy. Ray tells her he's a tour guide and offers to show her around the everglades. That goes well, and it's soon time to meet the "Boss Man," aka "The Captain." "Apparently, you've got potential," says Sandy. "You're gonna get your first trip out." Sandy and Christina search the docks for a 30-40-foot fishing boat to rent... nothing that'll stand out. The boat they find fills the bill, and Christina gets to go out with them... international waters... no need to worry about cops. The large bundles, wrapped in black plastic will first go to the boss's house before they go "up north." Apparently the Boss Man is pleased with her, and it's time for Christina and her girls to move from their motel room to a house. Nothing too fancy... but it does have a barn in the back. And much to MJ's surprise, the barn has a horse. It's the first positive thing that's happened, as far as MJ is concerned.

It won't be long before MJ finds out what the barn is really for. "The Boss Man puts stuff in there, and we have to be cool about it," Christina tells her. Although this is a film about drug running, it's fairly low key. Writer/director Shana Betz has created a film about her own childhood... she was the youngest daughter in real life. She has assembled a cast of well-known actors, including Oscar winner Anna Paquin as Christina. The look and feel of this movie is quite independent, so the unfocused style of story development isn't surprising. However, it lacks both a compelling narrative focus and serious character development. We get the feeling that she is holding something back. Perhaps a filmmaker who wasn't personally connected to the characters or the childhood memories would have pushed the story and character development a bit more. At one point Christina says, "Sometimes, we do what we have to do to do what we want to do." That's the kind of dialog that passes for character development.

1 popped kernel (Scale: 0-4)
A single mom gets a job that includes participating in a drug-running operation

Popcorn Profile
Rated: R (Language, Violence, Crime, Drugs)
Audience: Young Adults
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Art House & Video
Mood: Sober
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism
Nutshell: Drug running
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought Provoking

Read more Popcorn Previews at www.popcorndiary.com