Along for the Ride



On the way for the ride

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Auden wonders, with the summer ahead of her, if now is the time to see if she can start the big game. She decided to stay with her father and stepmother, who live in a seaside town called Colby. At home, she says, she only knows how to be one kind of person. “Maybe if I go to Colby, I can be someone else.”

If you’re hoping that instead she’ll have to be more authentically herself and find help from a handsome teenage boy, along with frequent micro-doses of what the subtitles call “melodic indie music”, you have come to the right place. If you want more than the first verse of a song, maybe not.

At first, Auden acts like it’s the opposite day, not thinking about what she wants, just about everything she hasn’t done before. But then she meets the good girl equivalent of the rules-following legendary “maniacal pixie dream girl,” who I’ll call “soulful faun dream boy.” It’s Eli (Belmont Cameli, in a role designed to be somewhere between John Cusack of “Say Anything”, Heath Ledger in “10 Things I Hate About You” and Moondoggie in “Gidget”). He offers to take her on a “quest” to make up for all the silly fun her earnest mother thought was a waste of time. He’s a bit of a loner, so she can get him together with his friends. He’s sad, and she can make him talk. And they give themselves the opportunity to tell stories and recognize truths that they have not even admitted to themselves.

The film gets a boost from Andie MacDowell as Auden’s mother, who presents herself to the pastel and seashell beach community in a very neat noir. MacDowell gives just the right bit of slightly snappy bite to lines like, “You’ll have to forgive me if I find the ease with which you’ve adjusted to the world of your father’s new wife alarming,” always making it clear to us, if not Auden, that it’s less out of snobbery than fear of losing her daughter as she leaves home for college.

Dessen, who also co-wrote with director Sofia Alvarez, shows us that it’s not just Eli who makes the difference for Auden. Some of the film’s best scenes concern Auden’s developing friendship with the other girls who work in her stepmother’s shop, played by Genevieve Hannelius, Laura Kariuki and Samia Finnerty. Thankfully, although there are a few awkward adjustment moments, Dessen gracefully sidesteps the all-too-common plot lines about mean girls or misunderstandings, and it’s heartwarming to see smart, confident young women supporting each other and enjoying dance breaks. wacky. She also offers us a sense of community, connection, and tradition reminiscent of the “Gilmore Girls” of Stars Hollow, and addresses challenges and the importance of helping and asking for help. More importantly, Auden shows us that being open to understanding her own feelings and taking risks gives her new insights into those around her, especially her parents and mother-in-law. She doesn’t come out as someone else, but as a truer version of herself. There may be nothing new in the message, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to hear it.

Now playing on Netflix.

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