'DriverX': Film Review

Courtesy of IFC Films
About as compelling as an Uber ride.
11/30/2018

Patrick Fabian of 'Better Call Saul' stars in Henry Barrial's drama about a financially desperate middle-aged man who turns to driving for a rideshare company.

Ridesharing has provided the background for a number of B-movie thrillers, but it proves less than inspiring for Henry Barrial's existential drama DriverX. Depicting a journey of self-discover for an unemployed middle-aged man who hits the road to make money by working for an Uber/Lyft-type car service, the pic proves unsatisfying both as drama and satire.

When we first see the central character, Leonard (Henry Fabian, in a marked departure from his cutthroat lawyer on Better Call Saul), he's applying for a job at the sort of millennial-staffed music company for which he's clearly too old. Leonard has some background in the field, having run an independent record shop, prophetically named "The Last Record Store," for years. But he's woefully out of touch with current music trends, expressing enthusiasm for Led Zeppelin and coming up blank when the interviewer asks him, "What new artists are you digging right now?"

Richard's unemployment is causing considerable stress in his marriage to Dawn (Tonya Clarke). The couple, who have two young daughters, lack the money to pay their property taxes, and Leonard's attempt to sell the vinyl inventory from his store doesn't pan out. "Dude, these are coasters," the buyer informs him.

In desperation, he becomes a driver for the eponymous company, driving late at night through the streets of Los Angeles and picking up a wide assortment of eccentric customers. These anecdotal encounters form the heart of the story and, if the movie were to be seen widely enough, would fuel an immediate upsurge in male car-service drivers. According to the writer-director who based the film on his personal experiences, getting hit on by beautiful, frequently drunken women is an inevitable part of the job.

These encounters don't prove very interesting over the course of the feature-length proceedings, although they do provide some helpful tips for would-be drivers, such as making sure your car is stocked with bottles of water, phone recharging cables and breath mints. What's less convincing is that Leonard's experiences with his passengers cause him to reevaluate his life and his marriage. The writing often feels stilted and forced, such as when Leonard regales two female riders with a lengthy monologue about the joy he experienced watching his children being born.

The proceedings take an abrupt turn into satire when Leonard has an accident after dropping off some passengers. Denied restitution by the ridesharing company, he goes to its headquarters, where he's greeted by a dismissive automated receptionist and then a human executive who's even more robotic. The scene makes its points, but feels jarring in contrast to the otherwise generally realistic tone.

The performances are effective all around, with Fabian and Clarke particularly strong as a longtime married couple dealing with relationship issues. And there are several welcome familiar faces amongst Leonard's passengers, including sitcom veterans Oscar Nunez (The Office) and Max Gail (Barney Miller). But DriverX, which has the style but not the substance of a strong '70s indie drama, stalls out quickly and goes nowhere interesting.

Production company: Antic Films
Distributor: Sundance Selects
Cast: Patrick Fabian, Tanya Clarke, Desmin Borges, Oscar Nunez, Travis Schuldt, Melissa Fumera
Director-screenwriter: Henry Barrial
Producer: Mark Stolaroff
Executive producer: Alex Cutler
Director of photography: Daniel Lynn
Production designer: Anna Karakalou
Editor: Eric Strand
Composer: Lili Haydn
Costume designer: Anna Bjornsdotter

98 minutes