Review by Mark Schwab
October 15, 2017
GenerationX has certainly fallen on hard times. Those kids who grew up in the optimistic 80's with that naive perspective of guaranteed success - show up on time, work hard and promotions and raises will just come to you - are feeling adrift as they struggle to stay relevant in a millennial economy of ever-changing technology, social media and pop culture. As these 40-somethings find themselves increasingly shut out of the job market (but not out of their bills, debts and family responsibilities), the emotional toll is getting tougher and tougher to handle (as evidenced by the spike in suicide rates unique to GenX).
Director Henry Barrial (of the excellent THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT now on Netflix) knows this first-hand as he found himself desperate for an income after a film project's funding suddenly fell apart. With no immediate prospects, he jumped into the "gig economy" and became an Uber/Lyft driver. Fortunately for us, Barrial channeled his experiences into a terrific new feature film DRIVER X - a perceptive and surprisingly sharp comedy/drama that sneaks in some great social commentary amongst the crazy situations.
Our main character is Leonard (Patrick Fabian of BETTER CALL SAUL and THE LAST EXORCISM) - husband, father and Gen X economy casualty - who has been the stay at home dad a bit too long after his record store went out of business. His wife (Tanya Clarke - very good) has a decent job but maintaining their upper middle class L.A. lifestyle has eaten through their savings and they are now facing a pile of bills with no way to pay them. Leonard needs a job...any job and with a few clicks on his smartphone, Leonard becomes "hired" with DriverX and the audience is quickly on the road to hilarity as a virtual passenger.
DRIVER X could have taken the easy way out with one-dimensional gross-out jokes but thankfully is much smarter as we meet the Los Angeles night denizens who need a ride and (sometimes) a personal connection...no matter how shallow and fleeting. All of Leonard's riders are interesting (and very well cast) without being cartoon characters, carrying the clear ring of truth from director Barrial's actual experiences. It really helps to have such a fine character actor as Patrick Fabian anchoring the whole enterprise with a terrific performance. Fabian is funny and likable but also enjoyably flawed and completely relatable - a fully three-dimensional character that you root for but are not required to put on a pedestal.
There are plenty of laughs to be had in DRIVER X for sure, but there is also an unmistakable tinge of caution and sadness that creeps into you as the credits roll. Generation X doesn't think they're ready to be put out to pasture in the job market just yet but they may not have a choice. The newer models are shinier and - most critically - cheaper.
*DriverX is currently playing the film festival circuit