“Pooling to Paradise” Indie Film, Review by Andrea Santo Felcone

What happens when an uptight Mommy Blogger, a heartbroken Talent Scout, and a struggling Actress all share a ride to Paradise, Nevada? Don’t answer before knowing that the driver of this ride is a self-proclaimed “Shaman”, a hipster, and a recreational drug enthusiast. Well, perhaps surprisingly, not much, at least at first.

Pooling to Paradise

Jonathan Lipnicki, Dreama Walker, Lynn Chen and Jordan Carlos. (c) Photo credit: Courtesy of Pooling to Paradise.

The beginning of the film “Pooling to Paradise” shows each character in their “before” form: a bit wooden, overly stereotypical, and predictable. However, as the film and the characters’ literal and figurative journeys progress–things get more engaging as the characters reveal different parts of themselves and start to form friendships with each other.

Mommy Blogger, Jenny (Lynn Chen) is more than just a little excited to leave her family for a few days to attend a Mommy Blogger Convention in Las Vegas. She’s the stereotypical Type A: making kale smoothies for her children; not trusting that anyone other than herself, including her husband, can handle things. She has made life so hard on herself that she’s extremely excited to leave the perfectly stylized nest she has created (and photographed at every angle). So excited, it seems she has inadvertently tapped “pool” on her rideshare app. (A fairly contrived plot point, but how else are we going to get her in a car with a few strangers for a road trip of self-discovery?)

The hipster driver, Marc, (Jordan Carlos) assures her that although it was her error, he has no doubt they will make it to the airport in time. Marc is a free spirit and a self-professed “Shaman”. (True to character, Jenny consistently corrects his pronunciation of the word.) Nothing ruffles Marc. Least of all the fact that he has two other passengers to pick-up, and a mysterious stop of his own to make, all before the airport.

Marc picks up Kara (Dreama Walker), the stereotypical Struggling Actress, and Sean (Jonathan Lipnicki), the Depressed Talent Agent who has just been dumped by his girlfriend. (Lipnicki’s name may sound familiar to Jerry Maguire fans, he was the adorable youngster in that film). Sean has recently cheated on his Reiki-Master girlfriend Dawn (Taryn Manning). (In a rather enjoyable plot point, Dawn had sensed something was wrong while giving Sean a Reiki session.) It’s also worthwhile to note that the initial scenes with Dawn are presented in 2D animation, which was fun.) Sean’s ex now lives in Paradise, Nevada, and we learn he’d love the chance to re-connect with Dawn. (Fun fact: much of the Las Vegas strip is actually located in Paradise: an unincorporated town in Nevada.)

After seeing that Sean is carrying a gun and has been contemplating killing himself, this misfit band of travelers decides they will drop whatever they each have going on—Jenny has missed her flight anyway–to accompany Sean to Paradise to support him in his efforts at possibly winning back Dawn. O.K., this part is highly contrived, and it seems especially hard to believe Jenny would give up her plans so easily, but, if I can conjure Marc for a moment, I believe he would say, “Just go with this. Maybe the Universe has a bigger plan for Jenny.”

Pooling to Paradise

Lynn Chen, Bradley White, Frances Kniaz. (c) Photo credit: Courtesy of Pooling to Paradise.

At this point it may seem there isn’t much room in the car for the audience to want to journey with these characters—initially presented as caricatures of themselves—the sleazy talent scout, the loopy actress, the high-strung Mommy blogger, the druggy driver. But if you stick with the film: the characters reveal new sides of themselves as they share secrets, discover common ground, and ultimately, forge friendships. You will see why these four strangers were placed in each other’s path.

By the film’s end, there is true growth: Jenny has remembered her fun side, she’s even sucking a lollipop (in case you need further evidence); Sean is looking forward to his future; Kara has shown she has more dimension than originally presented. Marc remains the most intact from his original self—perhaps he’s just the shepherd leading the flock, although his last scene shows a tiny bit of his backstory and that broadened my image of him (and explained that mysterious stop he made earlier in the film).

That last scene of Marc’s would have made the ideal ending, but instead there is an “epilogue” scene–a “three months later” peek into Jenny’s life as she literally recounts the lessons she learned from her road trip, while on a stage, peering out over her new friends (Kara, Sean, and Marc) and family. (It appears as if she’s entered a storytelling event like something The Moth would host.) This ending pushes us back into the ‘world of the contrived’ and feels as if the writer wanted to make sure everyone understood the film’s message.

If you look past the contrived beginning and “epilogue” ending, the body of the work that occupies the space in-between is where the film and characters shine. Watching how each character informed the others, while growing, was engaging. Perhaps not a complete journey to “paradise,” but definitely a pleasant trip.

Running time: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Where to watch: VOD on several platforms including Amazon, Vudu, Comcast, Charter and more. And available on DVD at Walmart. https://www.poolingtoparadise.com

Written and Produced by Caytha Jentis

Directed by Roxy Shih

Angela Pedraza: Producer. Executive Producer: Jared Safier.

Facebook: @poolingtoparadise

Instagram: @poolingtoparadise






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