Writers: Jake Johnson and Trent O’Donnell
Director: Trent O’Donnell
Comedy is one of the essential parts of human life, not only allowing humans to connect to the emotion of laughter but to bring out the joy in them. Cinema has always used comedy as one of the tools to convey the story by mixing it with a different genre. “Laughter comes thru emotions, and chaos is purest” this quote has often been explored in a combination of drama that has struck the viewer’s mind and hearts, and can be seen in many films. Ride The Eagle by Trent O’Donnell is another addition to the list of drama-comedy.
The storyline focuses on a middle-aged man Leif (Jake Johnson), a bongo-player in the band of youngsters. He lives in a messy cabin on the grounds of his agent’s property with his faithful dog Nora, who he loves. As his life goes, he discovers his mother Honey (Susan Sarandon), who has passed away, has left behind a cabin house under his name. Before he can get commutable with the place, he learns that to get the ownership of the home, he must complete his mother’s detailed list of life-affirming tasks that she has mentioned in a videotape.
The tasks involve Leif going to different places, which creates some funny and severe incidents in Leif’s life. One of the tasks involves him calling his ex-girlfriend to apologise for breaking her heart. He comes across his mother’s ex-boyfriend Carl (J. K. Simmons), who thinks he is some young honeyed lover. As the story moves forward, we can sense the meaning behind the tasks; it is to make this man-child connect with nature, manhood, and maturity. Will he complete the tasks or not? The answers lie in this dramedy.
The film is written by Jake Johnson and Austrian film filmmaker Trent O’Donnell who also directs. Speaking of the screenplay, both writers have crafted a story that focuses on discovering the reality of the world from the point of view of a lazy and carefree man. Dysfunctional relationships and growing up is something we have seen before, yet the writers achieve elements that are full of heart and humour. Ride The Eagle asks the right questions but does not answer many of them. The characters are well formed, yet the core focus stays on Leif.
The dialogue is deep and witty, which clearly shows some creativity in Johnson’s writing. Despite all the elements, the story seems a bit out of place and predictable. The comedy is a strong suit of the narrative, yet it does not blend well with the emotional drama aspect of the story. As a director, O’Donnell creates some beautiful moments that will help viewers to connect well and he has smartly used the nature factor in the plot that plays out in a magical way. Cinematography by Judd Overton is excellent in capturing the scenery, especially the long shorts. The music of Jeff Cardoni adds a needed tenderness and soul to the story which compliments Daniel Haworth’s editing work. The entire film was shot during the Pandemic with a limited crew, yet it achieves a decent outcome, which is admirable. There are few hits and few misses with the film, but this comedy offers something that will interest viewers.
Johnson is one of a fine cast who has done excellent work with his role; he plays Leif, a laid-back man and delivers another masterful and sterling performance; the way he delivers the dialogue and showcases his emotions are a delight. The film also stars many notable actors in supporting roles who are outstanding, especially J. K. Simmons, who adds life to the movie with his performance, and D’Arcy Carden whose chemistry with Johnson is excellent.
Overall, Ride the Eagle is a decent comedy-drama with excellent performances from a star cast with a focus on nature. It may feel small-scale and intimate in ambition, but this dramedy delivers amusement. The film is light at heart and whether you’re a fan of Jake Johnson or not, there’s plenty to enjoy.
Ride the Eagle is released on digital download from 4 October.