There is something comfortably familiar about DRUNK BUS. The post-college crisis is as common a life experience as there can be. During this time, where we go, what we do, or who we follow weigh heavier on us than at almost any other time in our lives. That conflict creates a fantastic setting for storytelling. This is why watching Michael (Charlie Tahan, Ozark) navigate both his recent break-up, the shambled pieces of his former life and even his nightly bus route feel like a retelling of a shared emotional experience.
We see Kent, Ohio, entirely through Michael’s perspective- in the form of a well-worn loop. Repeated visuals late at night focus on the subtle absurdity of everything he experiences. We as a viewer are told to focus on the details because, for Michael, the details are all that remains. The unchanging route, the restaurant marque with new nightly spelling errors, the ironic ad on the bus he drives, “Ignite Your Future!”. You quickly get saturated into his worldview and would stay there if it wasn’t for the other characters populating this story.
The supporting cast of characters doesn’t just provide humor, they provide narrative momentum, pulling Michael out of his own broken perspective. Will Forte (Scoob!) plays the disembodied voice of the bus manager haunting Michael with a career as a bus driver. Kat (Kara Hayward, Moonrise Kingdom) is the pickpocketing peer with her own reasons to get Michael to move on from his ex. Devo Ted (Dave Hill, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) is a campus drug dealer, also stuck in his own past. But the breakout performance comes from Pineapple Tangaroa (Song to Song) whose advice can be as sage as it can be chaotic. For example, see the exchange below:
Pineapple: “A wise Samoan once said ‘Change doesn’t begin when you get knocked on your ass. It begins when you decide to get on your feet again.’
Michael: “Is that another old proverb?”
Pineapple: “No! That’s Dwayne the mother-fucking Rock Johnson!”
With a performance that blurs the line between the character and himself, Pineapple is the new security guard provided to Michael after a bus altercation, who pushes Michael to finally take himself off route.
This coming-of-age comedy directed by John Carlucci, and Brandon LaGanke is in some ways a predictable ride, but what it loses on originality it makes up with dynamic scene-setting, and a cast of characters who play well off of each other.
Produced by Film Rise, DRUNK BUS, originally intended to premiere last year at SXSW, but was delayed by the pandemic, is now available in theaters and Video-on-Demand today.
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