Driving While Black Review By Neil Holmes
It wasn’t until about 45 minutes into Driving While Black that I was able to figure out what type of movie it is. It begins with a surrealistic urban nightmare then morphs into a slow, mildly humorous (being generous here) series of chronologically confusing vignettes. I’m not sure whether that’s on purpose or just the result of weak editing and storytelling. In the end, I think it wants to be a funny, socially relevant movie. At best it’s mildly amusing but thought provoking.
The lead, Dimitiri, played by Dominique Purdy, has a Latina girlfriend and is a pizza delivery driver. He’s also really an artist but < insert cliche here>. Do The Right Thing must have been one of the inspirations for this film so I’m going to refer to Dimitri as less-angry Mookie. Less-angry Mookie is just trying to make ends meet until he can support himself through his art. There’s an extended scene about a quarter of the way into the film where Less-angry Mookie has some spare time in Hollywood and decides to take a Hollywood tour (in my head I can hear my Las Angelina wife snort with derision and lecture me about how a true native wouldn’t be caught dead on a celebrity tour, but I digress). Less-angry Mookie then snarks amusingly through the tour, usually at the expense of the Indian tour guide (who, ironically, has the funniest line of the movie later on) and is invited to an interview for a guide position at the end. From here on the universe and the cops conspire to prevent him from making it to this interview.
The story was adequate, I liked the actors and it went out of its way to be evenhanded showing the humanity of the police as well as our heroes. I suspect that those who have experience driving while black may like the film less than I did viewing while white. I spent the last half of the movie waiting for things to go sideways but somehow things went, if not right, then within the margin of error. Driving While Black lacked the tension necessary to be a drama and wasn’t funny enough to be a comedy. Ultimately, it fails to satisfy.