Review: Passenger Side DVD

Passenger Side DVD boxSTUDIO: Strand Releasing | DIRECTOR: Matthew Bissonnette | CAST: Adam Scott, Joel Bissonnette, Robin Tunney, Gale Harold
RELEASE DATE: 10/26/10 | PRICE: DVD $24.99
BONUSES: commentary, featurette, live music performance
SPECS: NR | 85 min. | Drama | widescreen | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The premise of writer/director Matt Bissonnette’s independent drama Passenger Side is straightforward: Two brothers (Adam Scott of TV’s Parks and Recreation and Joel Bissonnette of Zodiac and brother of Matt) spend a day criss-crossing Los Angeles, encountering amusing characters and engaging in a constant verbal sparring match. The setup is effective, the setting is evocative and the two leading men have charisma to spare.

The only faults we can attribute to this movie are its rapid-fire dialog, which verges on too witty to be believable, and its contrived (albeit clever) trick ending.

Perhaps Passenger Side’s greatest success is its spot-on portrayal of the relationship between siblings gone separate ways. It perfectly captures a bittersweet, paradoxical mix of warmth and awkwardness as the men try to simultaneously behave as intimates and tiptoe around each other’s sensibilities. I thought of myself and my own half-estranged brother more than once while watching the film.

Similarly to such well-liked Los Angeles-based films as The Big Lebowski and Go, Passenger Side uses the parched and evocative city to augment a story about life falling short of unmitigated success. Meeting a bizarre collection of characters (including a transvestite prostitute, a clairvoyant and an angry gas station attendant), the players explore the sun-baked streets and tumbleweed outskirts like treasure hunters might scour the ruins of El Dorado, flush with the belief that gold is hidden somewhere.

And Bissonnette’s direction leans toward allowing the camera to linger on long gazes out the moving window of the brothers’ car, giving viewers time to contemplate the subtle nuance of the protagonists’ relationship, just as they surely are.

The supplemental live musical performance by Mac McCaughan & Jim Wilbur  is appropriately chosen and pretty good for an independent film. It was, of course, chosen by McCaughan, the film’s music supervisor.


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About Alex

Alex Kikuchi loves movies of every size and variety and has fancied himself a film critic ever since Mystery Science Theater made it look so easy when he was a kid in the 1990s.