Get ready to feel the coastal breeze, smell the salt in the air, and lather on the sunscreen from your sofa, because Along for the Ride is starting off summer in the best possible manner.
Netflix’s film version of Sarah Dessen’s 2009 novel follows smart-but-lonely Auden (Emma Pasarow) as she decides to spend the summer before college living with her estranged father in the little coastal town of Colby.
A night owl, Auden slips out every evening to read on her lonesome, and soon encounters a fellow insomniac, the intriguing Eli (Belmont Cameli) (Belmont Cameli). As the two become closer as the rest of the town sleeps, they go on a nightly journey to let Auden experience all the enjoyable elements of being a teen that she’s missed out on. And doesn’t it simply seem like the makings of an epic, swoon-worthy summer romance?
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before screenwriter Sofia Alvarez makes her directorial debut with Along for the Ride. While she feels comfortable in the YA romance genre, she was most delighted to produce the perfect summer movie, and celebrate female friendships first and foremost. Below, Alvarez speaks up about working with Dessen to adapt the novel, why she made so many modifications to the tale, and more.
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In Sarah Dessen’s young adult novel Along for the Ride (2009), Auden West is a teenager who can’t sleep because her mother and stepfather are always arguing. This prevents her from participating in common childhood activities like riding a bike. Auden, a senior in high school, had been accepted to Defriese University.
She has no idea how she will spend her last summer together. Her brother Hollis sends her a package. In Europe, she accepts her father’s invitation to spend the summer with him and his new family. He now lives in Colby, and Auden arrives, hoping for some time with her father. But Auden soon discovers her father is occupied with a new novel.
Auden travels to the Tip, a popular youth hang out on the beach. She meets Jake and ultimately hooks up with him. The next morning, Auden feels horrible and sends Colby home. Auden helps her stepmother, Heidi, get some sleep by watching Thisbe. Auden also assists Heidi with an errand for her business, Clementine’s.
The Gist of Along for the Ride
Auden (Pasarow) is a downer. She recently graduated, and instead of joining her peers in TPing the school bell tower, she is told that “as a transgressive act, it is faulty.”
She hasn’t missed many. Parties and proms aren’t her styles, but maybe she wants them to be? She’s a social awk. Her bookishness comes from her separated parents. Mom Victoria (MacDowell) is a gold-medal passive-aggressive professor. He’s an author with a newer wife, Heidi (Bosworth), and a nearly-new baby.
Instead of spending the summer at Robert and Heidi’s Atlantic beach house – music by Beach House, not a joke, check the credits – and doing the books for Heidi’s seaside shop, which certainly merits the additional “pe.”
So Auden turns on the narration (it’s always voiceover in YA literature adaptations) and drives to Colby Beach in his Volvo. In the meantime, Mom is enraged and Dad is too busy to even have lunch with his daughter.
Heidi is in that new-mom phase where she is foggy and on the point of a mental breakdown from lack of sleep. Auden’s objective is to meet new people and make new acquaintances in this little town with a boardwalk and chocolatiers. You’d go for the cute location, the ocean, ice cream cones, and the odor of guano and fish guts.
She goes to the local youth hangout, The Tip (great name), and faisashes with a doucheboy before realizing his doucheness. One down.
Mostly because the doucheboy is Maggie’s ex, and she saw them making out and Maggie is still stung, she doesn’t fit in with the small shorts and dance parties employee three of Leah, Esther, and Maggie (Laura Kariuki). No. 2 Heidi is a delight (truly! But stressed and Dad is writing Neither he nor Mom leaves guilt-inducing voicemails that finish with “c’est la vie.” UGH. Will this work?
Auden is a night owl who likes to read by candlelight on the pier. And who should arrive but a youngster on a bike, Eli? (Cameli). Who is Eli? Another late-nighters shows her a hidden laundry backdoor and teaches her Connect Four. Good news. The shop girls take Auden to beach bonfires and hot dog parties (as in frankfurters, clean it up friend) where no alcohol is served! Imagine! And she and Eli do sweet stuff that makes us shout KISS HER YOU DIP at the screen. But, because this is a film about life’s ups and downs, surely some down must follow?
What Movies Will It Remind You of?
Along with the Ride’s thundering waves and salty air conjure my memories of the Miley Cyrus/Nicolas Sparks beach movie The Last Song, but with less song, hamfisted turtle analogies, and death.
Our Take of Along for the Ride
Enjoyable to see, Along for the Ride makes you wish you could spend more time with these characters. The young people get to grow up on film in a genuine, convincing way; the adults seem to stick to the same old tropes, wet-blanketing the movie a bit.
Then, in the third act, Dad, Mom, and Stepmom act like real people, not caricatures, while Pasarow struggles with an ungainly never-learned-to-ride-a-bike metaphor and Cameli delivers a mawkish, emotional little monologue. Those poor youngsters, enduring such suffering on TV. Such a preventable disaster.
But this isn’t a torpedo to the hull. While Along for the Ride indulges in a few tired genre clichés, director Sofia Alvarez (who also wrote two To All the Boys) focuses on her star, cultivating a thoughtful, clever performance from Pasarow.
The movie blends realistic narrative elements with teeny-boppers’ dramatic triteness to keep a few generations watching and rooting for these individuals. Alvarez does her best to avoid the Happily Ever After Fallacy and indicates that life will carry on just fine for these not-irreversibly damaged folks.