Driver X from writer/director Henry Barrial (The House That Jack Built) is almost as much about the past as it is the future. Or, to be more precise, it's maybe about being dragged into the future kicking and screaming; at least into whatever version of "the future" in which we currently live.
The film stars Patrick Fabian (Better Call Saul) as Leonard, a middle-aged father and husband who once owned a gloriously popular record store and now struggles to keep up with the internet age and the awful people it's spawned. Unemployed and mired in domesticity, Leonard deals poorly as his wife (Tanya Clarke) waxes poetic about a potential cleanse she'll take on, how her job is tough, how Leonard isn't pulling his weight. So, when traditional channels of employment fall by the wayside, Leonard applies with Driver X, a riff on rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft. Without so much as ever speaking to a single living human, he's driving the night shift in Los Angeles. Shit gets weird.
Barrial based the film on his own experiences as an Uber driver between projects, and the writing for various fares hit so close to home it's borderline terrifying. From the curt and the too-friendly to the sexual and spooky, Barrial clearly was taking notes during his time driving.
Fabian, however, feels out of his element, and not in a good way. His portrayal of behind-the-times is often crammed into moments that make him seem more like an idiot than an aging human person, though we do admit we laughed out loud during a scene wherein he stands up for himself at long last; even better is the Driver X office, a scary yet hysterical scene that feels
almost more like sci-fi than satire.
The cast is rounded out with brief performances from some pretty well-known TV actors, like Brooklyn 99's Melissa Fumero, Scrubs alum Travis Schuldt, The Office's Oscar Nunez and
Desmin Borges, easily the best character in the FX series You're the Worst. And while these appearances are fun, the no-name actors are what lends Driver X authenticity and, more often, soul.
Still, we never really learn what comes of the job or whether Leonard works it out with his wife, and while we get plenty of hints that he might be a bastard, his development never comes full-circle. Instead, our fears about ourselves and these rideshare apps become startlingly real. And we laugh as much as we hurt, though we're not entirely sure that was the point—or if there was one.
+Clever concept; the fares; the satire
-Fabian is so-so; supporting characters feel pointless
Directed by Barrial
With Fabian and all those TV people
Jean Cocteau Cinema, NR, 98 min.