Most of us have had jobs that were nothing more than a monotonous grind. Every day, we would have the same conversations with the same people about nothing that brings us any happiness or improved self worth. And the recompense, no matter how much was given, only made it barely worth the time. It is into a job, and a life, like this one that we are thrown into with The Fare...
Written by and starring Brinna Kelly (2016's The Midnight Man) and directed by D.C. Hamilton (also from The Midnight Man), The Fare begins with a bored taxi driver as he motors down a desolate stretch of desert highway. Harris (Gino Anthony Pesi), the driver, is told by his radio dispatcher to drive down the road until he finds his fare, who will be waiting for him on the side of the abandoned highway. Harris rolls the dial on his radio and we hear some talk radio about aliens, time warps, the violent and possessive nature of men, some Greek myth, and a snippet about intimacy. I guess there are no top 40 stations in this part of wherever.
Harris soon picks up his fare; the lovely and appealing Penny (Kelly) and they drive some more. The audience is given some light conversation about comic books, destinations, and the burning smell coming from the car's heater. Suddenly, lightning flashes in the storm ahead and Penny disappears from the back seat. Confused, Harris resets his taximeter and… get ready audience for now it is you who shall be confused… Harris is transported to the beginning of the movie with no memory of the last several minutes. The radio plays the same talk radio snippets from earlier as Harris drives to pick up Penny yet again. Harris and Penny continue to drive as Harris becomes aware of the time loop he is stuck in. Attentive viewers who expect there to be some foreshadowing or hints towards the plot coming from the voices on the AM Radio stations are correct in their assumptions. But the film may have overplayed its hand as it is clear early on just what type of Tales From The Crypt adjacent story we are in for.
The Fare describes itself as a mystery/romance/thriller and it is those things very much in that order. The principal focus of the film is the time loop mystery. The rules of the time loop are clear and well defined. The nature of the loop is hinted at enough for viewers to play along and try to solve the mystery before the characters do. Unfortunately, the time mystery is not quite hearty enough to sustain the movie's sub-ninety minute run time. The film loses its propulsion soon after the first act and never quite regains it. For the mystery of the time loop to successfully drive the whole of the film, more questions and layers would be required. We simply do not get these layers or answers that lead to more questions and the film suffers greatly for it.
As for the romance aspects of The Fare, they are mostly successful. Both characters are likeable. Harris and Penny are different enough from each other for viewers to understand why things might not work out while still being able to see why they might be perfect for each other. The fact that there is a rigid set of rules keeping them apart makes their struggle real and possibly surmountable. The obligatory "Let's Chat and Maybe Fall in Love" montage is cute enough, if not lacking in creativity. Most of the film is made up of these two people talking in a cab so if the movie is going to be watchable they better be, at the very least, charming. And they are. During their conversations, Penny and Harris talk comic books, occasionally share their feelings, their pasts, and talk about the predicament they are both in. The strongest moments between them are when they stop talking about popular culture and stripping and give the audience some backstory or information about personal aspirations. Romantic dialog should be less Clerks, more Before Sunrise. I think that's good advice in movies and in real life.
As for the thriller elements this movie does not have that many. The cyclical nature of the plot; being stuck in one, confined location; and only having one or two characters per scene hinders the film's ability to deliver on thrills or surprises. The moment in the film that has the most potential for thrills ends up being one of the least inspired. It is a big let down when we should be scared out of our skin.
The Fare's budgetary restrictions are clear when watching the film as a whole but it does manage to overcome many financial limitations through some creative story telling and a few well used establishing shots. The nature of the story requires that it be set where it is and told in the nature that it is so it seems quite natural that we would be with two people in a dark vehicle for the vast majority of the film. The cinematography by Josh Harrison is technically solid and artistically creative. Shots of the inside of the cab are creative and varied enough for our eyes to not get bored with the film's images.
This sense of things being generally handled properly and with technical care is the overall feeling that I had about the movie. The acting is pretty good. The cinematography is creative. Editing and directing are done well if without flourishes. And the writing is mostly good. What keeps The Fare from overcoming the good and becoming something surprising or exciting is that its time loop mystery, which should be the focus throughout the film, can only generate about thirty minutes of entertainment. Had this been a twenty-minute short, an episode of "The Twilight Zone," or part of an anthology, it would have been a perfectly good story. Stretching it to the film's one hour and twenty-two minute run time ends up hurting the story considerably.
The creative team of Brinna Kelly and D.C. Harrison are proficient in their craft enough for me to want to see more work from them. I am even interested in viewing The Midnight Man if I can find a copy. But with The Fare they come up short of making an exceptional film.
The Fare takes you for a ride on Blu-Ray/VOD on November 19th from Dread and Epic Pictures.
By Mark Gonzales