Good Feels on Wheels is what Quentin Tarantino would call a “hangout movie.” By the end of the breezy, meandering ride, the characters feel like your new friends. You may find yourself watching it over and over again for the same reason Tarantino revisits Dazed and Confused — to feel at home and less alone.
The film follows a twentysomething named Opal (Stephanie Thoreson) during her weekend trip to Austin, Texas. After her long-distance romantic interest stands her up, she roams the streets of the hip city, aching for a connection. She ends up going to bed with a rideshare driver but finds more genuine chemistry with his roommate, Wyatt (writer-director Ronald Short). He invites her to tag along with him as he delivers weed all around town.
When Opal ribs him about being a drug dealer, Wyatt innocently says, “It’s not drugs — it’s just marijuana.”
This Apatow-esque setup leads to an intimate, fly-on-the-wall look at two millennials wallowing in wanderlust. Thoreson’s quietly implosive performance makes Opal’s longing our own. She captures the simultaneous joy and anxiety of having your whole life ahead of you. Short’s wistful turn is equally effective. Their relationship is refreshing in the sense that she’s neither a manic pixie dream girl who wakes him up, nor is he the guy who restores her faith in romance. First and foremost, they’re friends.
By the end of the film, they’ll be your friends, too. Short’s immersive style makes you feel as though you’re eavesdropping on them as they smoke weed and wax philosophical.
Good Feels on Wheels is also a beautifully shot love letter to Austin. Short seems to be following in the footsteps of fellow Texas filmmaker Richard Linklater, taking a freewheeling approach to exploring ordinary life.
This week, Short is returning to his old hometown here in the Hoosier state to screen the film at the Indy Film Fest. Click here for tickets and showtimes.
Want to pregame for Good Feels on Wheels with some other great hangout movies? Check these out if you haven’t already!
American Graffiti: In the midst of the Vietnam War, this film transported audiences to a more innocent time — a cool California night in 1962. George Lucas’s sophomore effort is a tender portrait of teen culture. But it captures much more than the experience of cruising around and riding on the high of youth. It also exposes the vulnerability and angst behind the adventurous adolescent spirit. I remember watching this film in junior high and yearning for nights like the one depicted here.
Dazed and Confused: When he’s traveling abroad and feeling homesick or lonely, Tarantino says he watches this film in his hotel room. I can see why. This movie feels like chicken soup for the soul. While American Graffiti focuses on the last night of summer vacation, this film follows teens on their first night of freedom. It emerges as a spiritual sequel, one that elaborates upon the exuberance and impermanence of youth.
Jackie Brown: This film is also like comfort food. It’s a crime drama but one with a light touch and a cast of charismatic characters you want to hang out with forever: Pam Grier as a sweet and streetwise survivor; Samuel L. Jackson as a laid-back and devilishly funny arms dealer; Robert Forster as a compassionate bail bondsman; Bridget Fonda as a sassy pothead; Michael Keaton as a tough ATF agent; and Robert De Niro as a dimwitted thief.
In an interview with The New Yorker, Tarantino said he “hopes people will see it the first time just to get the plot out of the way, and then, whenever they feel in need of a certain sort of company, watch it again.” He elaborated: “For people who like it, I really wanted to give them a gift they could watch for the rest of their lives. Every two or three years, put in Jackie Brown again, and you’re having a glass of white wine with Jackie, drinking screwdrivers with Ordell, and taking bong hits with Melanie and Louis.”
Book Club: A delightful, star-studded, superbly acted comedy that breathes new life into the theme of aging and making discoveries in one’s golden years. Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen have wonderfully natural chemistry together. (The friendship continues offscreen with an ongoing text thread between the actresses.)