SXSW 2020: Drunk Bus

Charlie Tahan, as Michael, driving the unpredictable late shift known as the "drunk bus." Photo credit: Luke McCoubrey.

A college graduate has to re-think his entire post-college plans in Drunk Bus after his girlfriend decides to leave him for an opportunity in New York City.

Michael (Charlie Tahan) finds himself in somewhat of a pickle after his girlfriend up and left him.  When we first meet him, he’s driving the “drunk bus” on a college campus.  Night after night, it’s the same routine for Michael during the late shift.  Michael’s girlfriend is probably living it up in New York City.  Meanwhile, he’s stuck in Ohio where he is driving a bus for drunk college students.  It’s probably not the life he wants.  It takes a security guard, Pineapple (Pineapple Tangaroa), being hired for the night shift before Michael starts getting his act together.  Meanwhile, there’s Kat (Kara Hayward).  She’s one of the bus riders and could very well jump-start Michael’s life.

There was at least one aspect of this film that I didn’t find funny.  Suicide is not a joke and yet Michael’s supervisor, Fred (Will Forte), uses computerized sound effects in pretending to kill himself.  This isn’t funny and if you are trying to get a better performance out of employees, there are better ways.  Joking about killing yourself isn’t it.  Listen, it’s not in my position to tell filmmakers what to do.  However, if I were in their shoes, I would seriously consider re-cutting that part of the film.

While Chris Molinaro penned the screenplay, Drunk Bus draws on the experience of both its co-directors, John Carlucci and Brandon LaGanke.  One can see how personal the film is for them.  It really shows when one makes a film based on their own lived experience.  This is exactly what they say when they tell you to write what you know.  There’s some risks that come with this including a non-actor such as Pineapple playing himself.  He does a solid job but it’s certainly a big risk in hiring a non-actor in a leading role.

Drunk Bus is certainly a different kind of coming-of-age story than were used to seeing on screen.  One reason for this is that the film mostly takes place entirely on a bus.  Similarly, shooting on a bus does lead to lot of action taking place.  Keep in mind that this is a film with a smaller budget than Speed.

It may have its flaws but Drunk Bus is rather impressive for a first feature.

DIRECTORS:  John Carlucci & Brandon LaGanke
SCREENWRITER:  Chris Molinaro
CAST:  Charlie Tahan, Kara Hayward, Pineapple Tangaroa, Tonatiuh Elizarraraz, Will Forte, Zach Cherry, Sarah Mezzanotte, Jay Devore, Dave Hill, Martin Pfefferkorn, Sydney Farley

Drunk Bus held its world premiere during the 2020 SXSW Film Festival in the Visions program. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.