Synopsis: On the morning of his thirty-seventh birthday Michael Brown (Adam Scott) receives a telephone call from his estranged brother Tobey (Joel Bissonnette), which sends the two off on a day-long odyssey across a wild and weird Los Angeles in search of Tobey’s “reason for living.” Behind the wheel of a beat up old BMW, fuelled by hilarious banter and a killer soundtrack, the brothers’ search leads them through a bizarre, beautiful land filled with surprising, comical characters to a very unrepentant and magical destination.
Passenger Side 8.0
‘Passenger Side’ is a road movie of sorts, one that’s kept within a limited range. There’s not much to it, really: on his birthday, some guy ends up stuck driving his brother around town to make all sorts of connections, some more dubious than others, all of them quite unusual and each as hilarious as the next.
I enjoyed this slow adventure around L.A., meeting various odd people. The film was all about these interactions and it was fuelled by the dialogue, which was decidedly pretty funny. The brothers’ relationship felt realistic enough; it was more about tolerance than true conviviality, about blood ties more than like-mindedness.
I especially enjoyed Adam Scott, who plays Michael, the sarcastic but bored brother who relents to giving up this special day due to parental pressure. I don’t really know Scott, having only seen him in a lead role in ‘Who Loves the Sun’ before this, but he feels so familiar to me somehow – as though I should know him better.
I wonder if it’s because he’s played a few bit parts in films that I’ve seen and I subconsciously retained these appearances. It could be. It could also be more simple-minded than that: his features reminded me so much of Tom Cruise’s that I might simply be mixing up the two. In fact, I find them similar enough that I think that he could easily play Cruise’s on-screen cousin, if not his brother (I should note that this is based on his appearance in ‘Passenger Side’, not on publicity stills).
Joel Bissonnette was also quite good as the other brother, but his character didn’t appeal to me one bit. I could understand why Michael was cynical about whatever he said or did – he seemed like an erratic, untrustworthy individual who is nothing more than a bottom feeder. I suppose that, in this respect, it means that Bissonnette did a great job of making Tobey real. And yet, for reasons that elude me, I wasn’t that enthused with him.
But, on the whole, I rather liked the vibe of the film, its motley characters, their exchanges and encounters. I was even surprised by its ending, strangely enough; it was nothing super original, and yet I didn’t see it coming. It’s abrupt, and not entirely credible when you think about it, but it was a good twist nonetheless.
As far as I’m concerned, ‘Passenger Side’ is a nice way to make a movie on the cheap, with only a car, a few actors and minimal locations. It’s an excellent example of “make do” filmmaking and I think that writer-director Matt Bissonnette (brother of Joel) did quite well considering what he had to work with.
In fact, not only would I recommend it to fans of indie cinema and/or offbeat films but, at some point down the road, I will no doubt buy the DVD and go on this unusual adventure again. It’s a ride worth taking more than once.