Note: If you’ve not yet been lucky enough to experience the cinematic masterpiece that is ‘Driven’ — fear not, for this review may be raving and passionate, but it is also spoiler-free!
It’s official, we’re on the other side. We’ve been enlightened by the true nature of the turdspoon, Emerson Graham is our new best friend, and we love Richard Speight, Jr. more than ever (is that even possible?)
This review of Driven, a new movie written by Casey Dillard and directed by Glenn Payne, is brought to you by two members of the Nerds writing team — Lindsey and Kaity. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to screen this highly anticipated movie, which is currently making the rounds at film festivals across the United States, and it certainly did not disappoint.
A normal week for this writing duo involves at least one movie night, in which we simultaneously watch the same thing from our respective homes in Canada and the US (managing to hit the play button at the same time is an art form, really.) Our stream of exchanged messages throughout Driven involved many capital letters, exclamation points, and other exuberant declarations — this bodes well for our review, we promise.
For starters, Driven is an indie comedy/thriller featuring rideshare driver Emerson Graham, who embarks upon a whirlwind night after picking up a mysterious passenger. Thinking this would be just another run-of-the-mill evening, Emerson quickly learns that she’s vastly mistaken as she discovers she’s up against much more than she ever could have expected. Despite a tumultuous beginning, the unlikely duo takes on every challenge of their quest head-on, bumping their own heads more than once in the process.
We loved this movie from start to finish for many reasons (too many to list, really) but we narrowed it down to our top five. So buckle up, we’re taking Driven for a ride…
The majority (if not the entirety) of Driven takes place inside of Emerson’s car, which led to one big, burning question going in — how exactly do you film an entire movie inside of a car? The logistics of this feat may still be beyond our understanding, but we can say with absolute certainty it can be done, and it can be done extremely well. The limited space opened up a whole new range of fun angles and frames for Glenn and the team to play with, showcasing impressive creativity and a true mastery of his craft. Which brings us to a key element of the movie’s cinematography, which must be acknowledged individually…
Lighting is a work of art, and something that the average viewer can sometimes overlook or take for granted. Yet when it comes to Driven, it would be virtually impossible not to acknowledge the superb lighting techniques that turned a small movie set on wheels into a visual masterpiece. The nighttime setting of the movie allowed the crew to make bold choices, like casting vivid blue and intense red illumination into the car at times. The colors spilled across Dillard and Speight’s faces and tapped deep into the mood and emotion of pivotal scenes.
Excuse us while we go off searching for who we’re mailing this delicious edible arrangement to for their impeccable work in cultivating the soundtrack for this movie — really, it’s that good. When crafting a film that dabbles between multiple genres, especially such polar opposites (a thriller AND a comedy?), music is a crucial pillar to the integrity of the plot. Driven truly nailed this; we were sold as soon as the opening song ushered in Emerson’s first appearance. The soundtrack is a mixture of fun, light notes that seamlessly transition into darker melodies when a particular scene calls for it. It’s also incredibly reminiscent of the trademark idiosyncratic theatrical themes that we know and love from 90s-era films.
Speaking of the 90s, Driven exudes the underlying mood of a love letter to this beloved decade of cinema — just with a newer car and fancier cell phones. It manages to remain beautifully simplistic, with subtle and brilliant metaphorical messages, and sails on full-speed ahead amongst movies of today that tend to lose themselves within the trap of overbearing plots and overcrowded sets.
(Music by: Matt Steed (non-vocals), Tide Rose and Stephen Keech)
What began as an unlikely duo of an aspiring stand-up comedian and her surly, standoffish customer transformed into a beautiful crescendo of character growth and redemption. The pair play their respective parts outstandingly well, which makes watching these polar opposites interacting on screen an absolute treat. Listening to their banter alone is a highlight in itself, which was made possible thanks to the superb writing (Casey, let us know where to send our undying devotion) and both parties’ flawless execution when delivering each and every line. The mutual respect and admiration between these two co-stars is clear as day, and we couldn’t think of a better pair to have been responsible for bringing Emerson and Roger to life.
That Guy Who Plays Roger
Richard Speight, Jr. will always be one of our favorite actors; he brings a certain energy to every project that is specific to him and we just cannot get enough of it. It was a pleasure to see him in a starring role that teetered between maniacal and heroic, while still showcasing his unparalleled knack for playing a quirky, quick-witted character that you just can’t help but love. He played the many facets of Roger so impeccably well that you inevitably end up rooting for him, even if some of his choices and actions are questionable at best.
So, if you haven’t already been able to guess, we’re big fans. This movie is a perfect culmination of delightful simplicity and raw, natural talent from its creators and cast. It’s an enjoyable ride (pun intended) from start to finish that leaves you craving more — not from a position of the story being unfulfilling, but from loving it just that much.
We’ve got every finger and toe crossed in hopes of widespread distribution for Driven, because it’s a film that deserves to be seen. Follow @drivenmovie on Twitter to find out about future film festival screenings, turdspoon ponderings, and other upcoming news!