Netflix’s “Along for the Ride” could have been the perfect summer movie


Photo via Netflix


Because most of Netflix’s romantic comedies tend to follow a certain set of rules and cheesy lines, I was hesitant to watch its new film, “Along for the Ride,” released May 6. The movie was adapted from Sarah Dessen’s bestselling novel, and, for those who know her, her books offer an outlet to a younger, carefree world that explores the nuances of human character. Her books are more than just teenage romance. As such, I was worried that Netflix would somehow find a way to fail the novel. In short, they kind of did. 

The audience is first introduced to Auden (Emma Pasarow) who makes it clear that she is not like other girls — don’t back off just yet, though. Her pick-me and rigid attitude stems from the trauma of her parents’ bitter divorce. She has spent most of her life living with her outspoken, and almost theatrical, mother Victoria (Andie Macdowell), but Auden is invited to stay with her father Robert (Dermot Mulroney), his much younger wife Heidi (Kate Bosworth) and their infant daughter for the summer in the fictional beach town of Colby. 

Auden sees this as an opportunity to reinvent herself from the perfect honor roll student and wearily accepts. There, she meets a carefree and mysterious biker, Eli (Belmont Cameli), who challenges her on a quest to do things that sheltered Auden has never done, like food fighting and going to prom. The movie follows them as they embark on this new adventure and confront the shadows of their past. 

The film isn’t terrible. It does diverge from the conventional romance movies that indulge in cliches and love triangles, but the film still lacks actual substance. Book adaptations don’t normally hit the mark because they fail to convey the emotional arcs of important characters through mere dialogue in a certain amount of time. However, books have the advantage of inner thoughts, length and most importantly, imagination. Movies give readers boundaries while novels offer endless possibilities. 

As such, “Along for the ride” fails to address the complexity of Dessen’s characters. Auden especially is not fleshed out enough, and her character falls flat. Moreover, two hours was just not enough time to address the themes of parental issues, grief and even the slight sexist nature of Auden’s dad. 

Yet, the film does some justice to the book. Enough scenes are carved out for a number of supporting characters to grow and change, and screen time isn’t exclusively restricted to Auden and Eli. Moreover, the film does well in the technical department. The indie soundtrack, vibrant colors and beach scenery scream summer vibes. The cinematography was beautiful and was a nice distraction from the static personality of our main character. 

Maybe if I didn’t read the book beforehand, I would have had more positive things to say about it. It’s still a fun watch since summer is right around the corner, but it could have been even better with the right script.