Passenger Side (Matt Bissonnette, 2009): Canada

Reviewed by Byron Potau.  Viewed at The Regent Theatre as part of the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival.

Some surprising comic moments along with some forced attempts at comedy are what mark writer/director Matt Bissonnette’s uneven, but moderately enjoyable film, Passenger Side.

Struggling writer Michael (Adam Scott) spends his birthday chauffeuring around ex-drug addict brother Tobey (Joel Bissonnette) who is searching for his former girlfriend, Theresa (Robin Tunney).  One stop after another takes them all over Los Angeles from seedy back areas to the desert, bringing them into contact with a multitude of strange characters.  Along the way the brothers hash out many of their differences and admit their failings and shortcomings…all while they banter wittily back and forth trying to one-up each other.

Matt Bissonnette shows a talent for witty banter and his actors, Adam Scott and Joel Bissonnette, have good chemistry together.  Scott in particular stands out and shows he is an actor with great comedic potential.  The soundtrack is filled with songs from several indie favorites, from Camper Van Beethoven to Wilco, who sing the title track.  The film suffers from a problem common to two-character films such as this one: writer/director Bissonnette simply cannot find enough for his characters to do, and there seems to be a good deal of filler as the indie soundtrack is put to use.  While they have some hilarious moments (you cannot miss the transvestite scene!) they also have several scenes that seem forced and repetitive as they run into one oddball character after another.  There is also a little too much self-realization as the characters seem to suddenly conclude, all too easily, everything that is wrong with them.  As it stands, the film shows promise for its writer/director, but with a little fine tuning it could have been a much better film.

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