Pooling to Paradise

A road tripper with miles of laughs and pathos

Shot on a shoestring, Pooling to Paradise, now on VOD, is your typical road trip indie–with atypical characters. There’s ‘copter mom and mommy blogger Jenny (Lynn Chen), headed for a Las Vegas conference. Undeniably skittish about leaving her kids with her husband, she bluntly proclaims her burnout before leaving, “Mommy’s leaving and never coming back!” An anal micromanager to a fault, she mistakenly books her rideshare to the airport using the ‘pool’ option instead of ‘single.’ Driver Marc (Jordan Carlos) picks up struggling actress Kara (Dreama Walker) and melancholy Sean (Jonathan Lipnicki), who is still pining for his ex.

Jonathan Lipnicki

After Sean threatens to kill himself, all reluctantly agree to stop off in Paradise, NV to see his ex. Besides, Paradise is near Vegas and Jenny has already missed her flight. The road trip thus becomes a therapy trip as we explore the sad, funny, and sometimes heartwarming facets of four lives.

Jonathan Lipnicki, Lynn Chen, and Dreama Walker

Marc has an answer for everything, sprouting mystic aphorisms, Jungian anecdotes, and shamanic gestures into a kind of life is what you make it gumbo. Jordan Carlos elevates his role and makes it shine like a new penny. Lipnicki moves the needle toward bravura, turning Sean into a hopeless romantic as he spills out love’s lost pain and regret. Jenny confronts suppressed emotions as she tries to reconcile the relentless tugs of career and family. Kara is a bit stereotyped as a wanna-be washed-up actor with $300 to her name.

Jordan Carlos

Pooling starts off slow and predictable then segues into an exploration of four lives gone awry. What’s entertaining is how our four dovetail into each other as we move from highway to byway. And how each character works to nudge others into self-discovery.

There are little life moments in Pooling that draw you in and make you nod with a knowing smile. When heartbroken Sean wistfully pines for Dawn, his ex, it’s done via animation instead of flashback to reveal the root cause of their breakup. Character revelations continue in an off-road gift/junk shop as each passenger explores curios they seem to connect with.

Cleverly wordsmithed by Caytha Jentis, the dialogue is, for the most part, tight, witty, and sharp. Roxy Shih quarterbacks this indie with flair and heart, exploring nuances we often don’t see in road trip films. The beauty and solemnity of nature play a part in Pooling. And cinematographer Jih-E Ping does a nice job on desert scenes. Though, I suspect, more could have been made out of the camping scene, which felt seemed all too familiar and perfunctory.

Some have compared Pooling to Breakfast Club on wheels. I found it a bit lighter and more connected to the angst of millennials. Either way, it’s a mostly entertaining piece of work that fills 80 minutes with laughs and surprises.

Check out the trailer

Images courtesy of Safer Entertainment

Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of film reviews and celebrity interviews for a wide variety of online and print outlets. He has covered red carpet premieres and Comic-Con events for major films and independent releases.