Riding the Bus with My Sister (2005)
Starring: Rosie O’Donnell, Andie MacDowell, Richard T. Jones
Directed by: Anjelica Huston (Bastard Out of Carolina; Agnes Browne)
Synopsis: Beth Simon (Rosie O’Donnell) is a mentally challenged individual who loves to ride the bus but is surrounded by a-holes. But the real story here is Rosie O’Donnell’s legendarily bad performance.
- Richard T. Jones gives a nice performance as Beth’s mentally challenged friend. It’s very soft-spoken and subtle, which makes it all the more endearing next to Rosie’s squealing.
- There are a couple of nice, touching moments. They don’t quite get all the way into tearjerker territory due to horrendous acting and directing, but they’re there.
What Doesn’t Work:
- The sole reason that this TV movie is so notorious is the performance by one Rosie O’Donnell. It’s so over the top that Sylvester Stallone went back in time and made a homoerotic arm wrestling movie about it. Rosie has to believe that “nuance” is some type of fancy dipping sauce. She basically screeches all of her dialogue in an incredibly grating cartoon dog voice. I wasn’t able to find any footage of the real Beth Simon, but it’s hard to believe that she constantly speaks like that without shredding her vocal cords. Even if she did, it’s Rosie’s job to craft a tone that would honor the subject but not be a consistent annoyance. It’s just a ridiculous performance that has to be seen to be believed. And you know she was thinking the entire time, “I can feel that Emmy in my pocket!”
- Anjelica Huston most definitely did not inherit any of her father’s directing ability. This TV movie was a Hallmark Hall of Fame special (whatever that means, sounds important) and it doesn’t even manage to achieve those lofty standards. Nearly every scene is shot horribly, a lot of scenes go nowhere, and the movie is full of cliched instances, like a shot of Andie MacDowell grunting with frustration over something Beth did. Plus, she seemingly didn’t try to reign Rosie in at all. I still can’t believe this was made in 2005. Everything about it seems like it was made in 1995 at the latest.
- I think Andie MacDowell (who plays Beth’s sister, Rachel) is sleepwalking through most of the movie. Actually, she was probably completely overwhelmed by Rosie’s performance that she wasn’t able to act properly in their scenes together. When she doesn’t share the screen with Rosie, she seems to have a bit more of a pulse.
- Literally everyone in this movie with the exception of Beth, her friend, and one bus driver is a complete and utter jerk. Everyone seems to hate this poor developmentally disabled woman and treats her like garbage, complaining that she goes down the stairs too loudly or that she should stop riding the bus all day and find a job. It’s really incredible how much a-hole juice everyone was slurping down in this town.
Overall: Wow. Let me just state for the record that I didn’t watch this to make fun of the mentally challenged. I have the world’s softest spot in my heart for people with mental disabilities, which is why Rosie’s performance in this is so off-putting to me. Why she or anyone involved with the production thought this was a good idea is beyond me. At its heart, the story is moving and poignant, as Rachel is tasked with taking care of Beth after their father dies, but both Rachel and Beth want Beth to be independent, because Beth doesn’t want to live in a group home and Rachel is kind of a selfish b. But Rosie’s performance and Anjelica Huston’s incompetence as a director just destroy everything. There are scores of wonderful actual mentally challenged actresses out there who could have been cast as Beth and the movie probably could have been nice, heartwarming tale. A documentary would have been even better, as it would have been great to see how Beth gets by and how she interacts with everyone on the bus. Instead we got a shocking view into how 99% of the people in Beth’s town is a dingleberry.
Score: 3 bus passes (out of 10)