• Sebastian Mann

Pooling to Paradise (2021) Review

A motley crew of bored, LA millennials make an unintentional road-trip to Nevada in indie director Roxy Shih’s latest comedy-drama.

There are few more efficient metaphors for discovery than the road movie. The journey from Point A to Point B is one of self-reflection more than geography. Pooling to Paradise may be a little predictable, but it’s a fun and affirming story. After all, the journey is more important than the destination.

Jenny (Lynn Chen) is a tired, struggling mommy blogger - a caricature of the LA millennial. Booked in for a weekend ‘away’ at a blogger business conference in Las Vegas, things start going wrong before she’s even left. She’s accidentally selected the ‘carpool’ option for her taxi, and she’s going to be sharing the ride with strangers.

She’s joined by fellow millennials Kara (Dreama Walker), a soon-to-be-washed-up actress in a pink sweatsuit and the hungover, heartbroken Sean (Jonathan Lipnicki).

Sean yearns for an ex in Paradise, Nevada and with Jenny now bound to miss her flight, their careless ferryman, Marc (Jordan Carlos), takes little convincing to make the full five-hour trip that afternoon. Plenty of time to get to know each other and, inevitably, themselves.

This film turns into a surprisingly engaging character drama

Carlos is the star of the show as a hopeless philosopher who passes off quotes from The Matrix as spiritual advice and talks about existentialism as if he were a baked teenager. Despite the drugs in his pocket, he insists he’s straight-edge, but nobody’s fooled.

The deserts around them are beautifully captured by cinematographer Jih-E Ping, as empty as the travelers on the road, but a film like Pooling to Paradise can only survive on the strength of its writing.

While some of the jokes land (and some certainly miss), it’s saved by its more free-flowing second half, where it turns into a surprisingly engaging character drama.

There’s a wistfulness to Caytha Jentis’ writing that extends beyond the obvious jokes and observations. You find yourself caring about what at first seem like a group of caricatures, ultimately turning out to be people moulded into shape by their environment, all looking for a way back home.