by Julian Spivey
Director: Trent O'Donnell
Starring: Jake Johnson, D'Arcy Carden & Susan Sarandon
Rated: Not Rated (But Would Be 'R')
Runtime: 1 hour & 28 minutes
Most people probably know Jake Johnson from his role as the hilarious Nick Miller on the Fox sitcom “New Girl” from 2011-2018, but he’s become quite the indie film actor over the last decade. However, it’s been a bit since his best indie work in 2012’s “Safety Not Guaranteed” and 2013’s “Drinking Buddies.”
Now he’s back to his indie ways in “Ride the Eagle,” a film he co-wrote with director Trent O’Donnell, in which he plays Leif, a struggling musician who finds out his estranged mother Honey (played by Susan Sarandon) has died and has bequeathed him her lovely mountainous cabin with one major catch – he must complete a list left by her via videotape.
It’s a quaint film, mostly following Leif through his quest to get through this list – that he begins reluctantly because he honestly has nothing better to do. If Johnson didn’t know this character so well via co-writing the film and if he weren’t so likable at playing aimless adults in their late 30s it might not be so interesting, but as a fan of Johnson I was willing to follow him along on this journey to develop a relationship with his deceased mom.
Where “Ride the Eagle,” which gets its title from a truly horrid piece of art painted by Leif’s late mother, is at its best is when the mom instructs Leif to make things right with “the one that got away” and Leif calls up an ex he hasn’t spoken to in about a decade named Audrey (played by D’Arcy Carden). Johnson and Carden have so much chemistry that there are times I found myself thinking maybe Johnson and O’Donnell should’ve stripped everything else away and re-wrote the film as a rom-com between the two. The banter between Johnson and Carden, done completely via phone calls and texts as they’re never in the same room together (which is truly amazing due to the chemistry), is the highlight of the film.
There’s a bit of mysterious thrown into “Ride the Eagle,” as well, when Leif arrives at his late mother’s cabin and gets a threatening call from a man assuming he’s Honey’s lover. It’s drawn out a bit until a face-to-face confrontation between Leif and the man, Carl (played by Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons), in which the two realize it’s all a misunderstanding. Carl is a role type Simmons has played often, in fact it’s very similar to his performance in last year’s indie darling “Palm Springs.”
At an hour and 28 minutes, “Ride the Eagle” doesn’t overstay its welcome and truly only works because Johnson is such an affable performer.
“Ride the Eagle” is currently available to rent on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and other streaming apps for $6.99.