Review: Backseat Driver
This funny albeit uneven Mexican comedy is a buddy road movie that has some not-so-subtle messages about toxic masculinity.
Frantic with jealousy, Tomás imagines myriad ways to kill his wife's lover in Backseat Driver (¿Y Cómo Es Él?), each more violent than the last. But he's slowly worn down by Jero's positivity and his own basic goodness. The pair have some funny moments and one-liners, mostly involving down-and-out Tomás' many misfortunes (he doesn't exactly "radiate success and prosperity," Jero notes, and he can't grow a beard), which are contrasted with Jero's apparent surplus of wealth and charm.
But things aren't always what they seem, which viewers realize as the curtain is pulled back gradually on Jero's financial problems, his "low-budget Romeo" act, and his cheap pickup lines that are specially crafted for each decade of a woman's life.
Here, two men critiqued as "macho" are forced to confront their own vulnerabilities, discovering in each other an unlikely companion for their journey. A scene in which the two drunkenly role-play a confrontation between Tomás and his wife is hilarious, capitalizing on the chemistry between the two popular actors.
The film teases a possible attraction between them, a cliché that's problematic but at least done here with a wink and a nod. The subtext is that it's actually healthy for a man to cuddle his best friend, tell him he loves him, forgive a woman for cheating, and/or see a therapist. Of course, that progressive message is offset in other ways, like Jero's familiarity with a brothel or Tomás' Cheshire cat grin when he sneaks a peek at Jero's privates.
The film has some technical shortcomings, including clumsy edits, a great soundtrack undermined by splices of heavy-handed original music, and an overly simplistic assassin subplot. But joining the stars on their road trip ultimately proves to be a surprisingly entertaining adventure.
Read the full review on Common Sense Media.