It is doubtful that anyone who has enjoyed the work of writer and actor Jake Johnson can name one instance in which he played a man who works in an office. It’s not all about his non-toxic, shaggy brother personality. In “Ride the Eagle,” which Johnson co-wrote with director Trent O’Donnell, he plays a character forced to contend with impending middle age. But no worries – her journey doesn’t in any way oblige her to button down or up. just the opposite.
Johnson Leaf, a man of simple pleasures—yes, he sets fire to a joint as soon as he gets out of bed—lives at the estate of the leader of a band for whom he plays conga drums. His mother, Honey (Susan Sarandon), who abandoned him as a child, has died. He’s given her a much more attractive cabin than her current cabin bequests—but to get it, she’ll have to carry a gauntlet of life lessons Honey recorded for her in a video before she died.
When Leaf arrives at his place, he finds a significant amount of dope in his cabinets, establishing a new bond between mother and son. Marijuana, strictly speaking, did not belong to Honey, which sets up a plot point that attracts a dangerous JK Simmons. Her instructions for Leaf include a lot of carpe diem stuff that you yourself may have heard a thousand times, even if you don’t have a hippie in your life. While completing a task, Leaf is reunited with an old love, the initially unattractive Audrey (D’Arcy Cardon).
“Where do these people get their money from,” I wrote in my notes when Leaf and his dog went out for a long drive at the film’s fade-out. Does not matter. Nor many cliches. In “Ride the Eagle,” the laid-back vibe is all there.