Ride the Eagle is a heartfelt comedy that feels timely and should be able to resonate with audiences well over a year into the pandemic.
Leif (Jake Johnson) doesn’t have the best relationship with his mother, Honey (Susan Sarandon). The two of them are estranged when she passes away. It’s not like it was any one thing that set them apart. She made choices that Leif didn’t agree with and the rest is history. Nobody ever sets out to be estranged–I mean, I have cousins who no longer talk to me because I’m transgender and don’t think for a second that I wouldn’t do anything to talk to them again, well, I won’t detransition if that’s what they want. But I digress. While Honey leaves Leif an inheritance, it’s conditional upon the completion of a to-do list. This certainly isn’t something you see every day. Come to think of it, I’ve never known anyone leaving a “conditional inheritance.”
Honey has a cabin in Yosemite with picturesque views but of course, Leif can’t even move in their without completing the list. It’s easier said than done but Leif does he best along with his dog, Nora. Honey requiring Leif to complete the to-do list is her away of repairing the relationship. The process sees Leif reunite with Audrey (D’Arcy Carden) even if their relationship is limited to being over the phone.
It’s always nice to see The Good Place‘s D’Arcy Carden displaying her acting range. She’s a brilliant improviser and there is more to her than just playing Janet. I hope we get to see more of Carden’s work on screen during the years to come. Even when Carden is on screen by herself, her brilliance comes through in the performance. Solo acting isn’t the easiest feat especially when you are not bouncing energy off of another person. But again, she gives it her all. This is what separates the grate improvisers from the rest of the field.
Ride the Eagle is a film that feels just right for this era. Many of us are still staying home because of the pandemic. I’m doing my best. This is a pandemic film and it especially shows with a small cast and scenes where many characters are by themselves. I give screenwriters Jake Johnson and Trent O’Donnell a lot of credit for using a pandemic to write a film may be smaller in scale but gives us something to laugh at. Some pandemic films really make it a point to say that it’s a pandemic film but not Ride the Eagle. It isn’t a Zoom movie, thank G-d. But still, the fact that it’s a comedy isn’t the choice one would expect about an estranged relationship where someone just died.
Nature may not have made things easy for the filmmakers what with the fires and all but I tip my cap for being able to do anything during the pandemic. The shots in Yosemite make for some beautiful visuals on screen. While I remain hesitant to see anything on the big screen, there’s a part of me that would have liked to experience the film in such a way.
Ride the Eagle may feel small and intimate in scope but this comedy brings the laughter.
DIRECTOR: Trent O’Donnell
SCREENWRITERS: Jake Johnson & Trent O’Donnell
CAST: Jake Johnson, D’Arcy Carden, Luis Fernandez-Gil, Cleo King, Eric Edelstein, with J.K. Simmons and Susan Sarandon