9 Rides is an ambitious bordering on guerrilla project that follows an Uber Driver (Dorian Missick) as he picks up and drops off passengers on New Year's Eve 2016. He's working that night to earn extra money as he prepares to cover the finances to his wedding to his girlfriend. As one can glean from the title the film is sectioned into 9 different fares. Between trips the driver thinks about his goals, relationship while trying to reach his girlfriend who has gone out for a supposed quiet New Year's with friends.
Director Matthew A Cherry shot the entire film on an iPhone 6 with the acting taking place in or in the close vicinity to Joe's GMC SUV. The narrative runs though conversation between the driver and passengers, telephone conversations or texts displayed on screen. The film will inevitable bring comparisons to last year's Tangerine that was shot on an iPhone 5 and is also quite similar as it follows the main character on a journey through Los Angeles dealing with family issues while meeting a bunch varying personalities.
The story jumps into ride 5 as a prelude to the action. Joe picks up a single female who begins a flirtation through the mirror that leaves an open ended question as to where reality and ends and the driver's imagination starts with this encounter. A key theme of the piece is how that vibe in the vehicle changes as each fare enters the vehicle. In the fourth chapter he picks up a couple that are obviously in an abusive relationship. What are the driver's obligations? Should he get involved? What if the female does not accept help to escape the situation if offered? The warmest episode occurs when he picks up a senior couple from the airport. Their trip to L.A. was a surprise sprung by the husband. As the driver is about to embark on a new life with his fiancee he wants their key to happiness. The answer is open communication no matter if the subject is good or bad.
The director and cinematographer Richard Vialet do an excellent job creating space in a piece that could easily give the impression of confinement. Firstly they use the exterior around the vehicle on several occasions to extend the area for the actors. Next shadows and reflections using the vehicles mirrors, natural and artificial light of L.A. at night help to enlarge the films environment. Lastly shooting several shots from the outside edges of the large SUV help to remove any claustrophobic feelings as well.
Dorian Missick is a strong choice as the driver. He keeps his mind sharply focused on his reason for being out there on New Year's Eve. He engages with his fares the right amount given the situation and the story allows for the silences that naturally occur in a vehicle for higher after the initial polite exchange of conversation begins.
9 Rides tells a series of compelling stories over the course of one evening. The film is shot in a manner that gives the viewer a strong sense of Los Angeles at night. The narrative captures a night in the life of a driver for higher. The different characters met ear fare with a story to tell. It's a compelling bit of modern film making that that is definitely worth a look.
*** 1/2 Out of 4.
9 Rides | Matthew A Cherry | U.S.A. | 2016 | 86 Minutes.
Tags: Uber, Driver, New Year's Eve, iPhone, Los Angeles, Wedding, Abusive, Jealousy, Traffic Stop