Beware of dismissive ballroom conversation.
At the start of the perfectly enjoyable teen coming-of-age drama “Along for the Ride,” two characters discuss prom and how one of them couldn’t go to his and what isn’t so bad anyway, because who cares about prom. Well movies like this still you care about prom, and after this conversation you can do worse than bet the farm that there will be some sort of grand recreation of prom to follow.
So while the beats are familiar in “Along for the Ride,” based on Sarah Dessen’s 2009 novel, they’re handled well.
Emma Pasarow is Auden, a quiet and socially awkward teenager who has just finished her senior year of high school and moves to a seaside town to spend her summer with her inattentive father Robert (Dermot Mulroney) and stepmother Heidi (Kate Bosworth). Heidi has set up Auden with a job at her shop, where she works alongside a trio of slightly aloof guys, led by Maggie (Laura Kariuki). But eventually they warm up to Auden and once everyone gets to know each other they have the best summer of their lives.
Auden, who is a bit of an insomniac, meets Eli (Belmont Cameli), a mysterious boy with a secret, and they spend their late night hours breaking through each other’s defenses. They watch “The Princess Bride” together, talk about Jane Campion, and he takes her to the kind of secret pie shop/hipster cafe that only exists in teen movies based on YA novels.
It’s all a bit precious, with a well-curated indie rock soundtrack and a score by dream pop duo Beach House, but writer-director Sofia Alvarez, screenwriter of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and her sequel, finds heart and soul in her teenage characters. This is a goody-goody bunch, of course – hooking up doesn’t go beyond kissing, drugs and alcohol aren’t pictured and a good food fight at the old is signaled by a character announcing “FOOD FIGHT!” at the top of its lungs – but in a cynical landscape where teenagers are often treated like commodities, these characters find real meaning in their gratuitous mid-afternoon dance breaks. You could too.
“On the way for the ride”
Duration: 107 minutes
Rated TV-14: language