When the words “Thinking man’s Judd Apatow” are used to describe
Canadian road film Passenger Side it’s hard not to think of a front of
witty dick jokes punctuated heartfelt, sometimes overbearing moments of
sentiment. And Passenger Side, an account of two brothers travelling
around their native LA on a mystery quest does embrace this heartily in
the form of transgender hookers, drunken frat girls and porn.
Apatow regular Adam Scott is sensible brother Michael, a reserved and
frustrated novelist whose younger brother Tobey (Bissonnette’s actual
brother Joel) is the walking personification of failure. A recovering
drug user, Joel implores Michael to drive him around California on a
series if errands which could or could not be substance related.
It has every road movie cliché in the book; bizarre sub characters,
life changing experiences, a bitingly hip soundtrack. What propels
Passenger Side above the genre is the dialogue. Bissonnette’s
desperately dry wit cuts through the Californian heat as the brothers
ongoing feud is channelled through sarcasm and wry remorse. The film’s
premise is perfect to let the script swell as it mostly takes place
behind the wheel and Bissonnette makes full use of this. Admittedly the
witty banter may be a little overly pretentious to begin with but as the
narrative progresses all is forgiven as it is apparent this icy
intellect is to shield some pretty deep emotional confusion as the
brothers clearly have unresolved feuds and a severe lack of common
The significant third character in Bissonnette’s third feature is LA
itself as a rarely seen canvas of dirty venues, crime and obscure
architecture, portrayed expertly by cinematographer Jonathan Cliff’s
unfaltering eye. This city is everything to the brothers, be it the
cause of their loneliness or solitude or a quick hazy fix for some
eroding issues, and each scenario they encounter is a well used
opportunity to show another layer of their surroundings.
Shot in just 14 days there is some haste in the plot which takes away
any time to dwell on some developments the characters undergo which is a
shame. The conclusion especially is deprived of any meat, cutting away
to the final shots and ending credits all too quickly for the events to
sink in and an opinion for the two people that you’ve followed for the
whole film to formulate.
Otherwise this is a decently written, decently shot piece of
cinema which, although doesn’t provide the substantial belly laughs that
accompany the Apatow franchise will certainly provide a wry smile and a
need to go out and listen to some Wilco.