Movies based on a filmmaker's own life story can be a slippery slope. Events may not always seem as interesting to outsiders as they were — and obviously still are — to the actual participants, while more dramatic license than what was taken is often needed to craft a stronger filmic narrative.
Such is the case of "Free Ride," a family drama written and directed by Shana Betz about a period in the late-1970s when Betz's single mother became a drug runner. The result, while sincere and nicely evoked, feels choppy, familiar and, despite the script's heavily stacked deck — and a few harrowing episodes — lacks sufficient momentum.
That Christina sees this illegal work as a way — the only way? — to provide for her kids isn't strong enough to justify the character's often poor mothering, shady choices and flexible standards. If Betz wanted us to embrace her party-friendly mom as much as she does (the filmmaker calls her "the coolest, most beautiful light in the world"), she inherently falls short. It's no fault of Paquin's, however; though a bit young-looking for the part, she's quite good.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes.
Playing: At Arena Cinema, Hollywood.