‘Ashby’ Movie Review: A Weird, Funny Mess Of Plot

by Dawn Day

This post includes spoilers for the film “Ashby.”

It ends with a touchdown and a kiss – as most teen coming-of-age movies do. But Ashby, written and directed by Tony McNamarahas A LOT more going on—so much that the whole film is a bit convoluted with different plotlines and themes. The film’s title character, Ashby (Mickey Rourke), opens up the movie by blacking out while driving his car. Soon, he learns that he has a brain tumor and three months to live. Needing a way to get around town, Ashby is in luck when his wide-eyed, witty yet nerdy 17-year-old neighbor, Ed (Nat Wolff), knocks on his door. One thing leads to another, and Ed—in need of an old person to interview for a school project—ends up driving Ashby around town.

Now, don’t get a “cute old man” picture of Ashby in your head. He’s a killer. Literally. Ed soon discovers multiple passports and weapons in Ashby’s house, revealing his true identity as an ex-federal assassin.

When we first meet Ed, he’s listing off his knowledge about Hemingway on his first day at his new school. The football dudes in his class make fun of him, but little do they know he’ll be one of them soon enough.

See Ed isn’t your typical nerdy guy, he doesn’t come with suspenders and glasses and a pocket protector. He is conventionally attractive—Wolff is sort of a teen heartthrob after roles in the John Green movies The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns—and he has a charisma about him that sets him apart as one of these newfangled dudes that isn’t a douche and isn’t a nerd and is somewhere in between.

It would seem as though the film is about rite-of-passage for a teenage boy in modern society, but it is also about Ashby righting some of his past wrongs and looking for redemption. Plus, there is the whole love interest story line with Eloise (Emma Roberts), and issues with both of his parents. See what I mean about convoluted? With so many half-baked plots in the film, it is hard to pull out the true meaning.

Despite the many winding roads it goes down, Ashby is funny throughout and easy to watch. A highlight was Sarah Silverman as Ed’s mom who is trying desperately to find love. She wasn’t in the movie much, but when she was every line was a zinger. The first time she comes on the scene, she is standing up after Ed walks in on her giving one of her new co-workers a blowjob. “We have to make friends,” she says to her son.

There are some great moments in the film symbolizing Ed learning how to disregard society’s “macho man” box and stay true to himself. Ironically, he learns some of these life wisdoms from the ex-assassin who has all of the sudden grown a heart in the home stretch. He also learns from his mistakes, like not bolstering the courage to step in when members of his football team sexually harass his crush, Eloise.

By the end, it seems that forgiveness is given, acceptance is granted and redemption is found, though it is a winding road to get there.

If you like lighthearted comedy about teens with some symbolic depth, Ashby, which hits theaters today, is for you. But beware: You’ll have to get some pancakes when it’s over, because the ones Ed and Ashby eat look bomb.

Images via “Ashby”

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