A Drive With Linnea and Donald is billed as a Scott Shaw film, one of his Zen Documentaries. But even when Shaw is in the director’s seat, Jackson’s influence can be very firmly felt. It’s in the questions asked and the way the film is laid out, though Shaw is definitely here too. You can see this in the way the movie is edited – rather in the way it’s not edited. Still, this is meant to be a light, fun visit with old friends. It’s nonsense and small talk. By the way, don’t be deceived by the placement of the names in the title. Despite arguably being the more famous personality, this is not Linnea’s movie. For the lion’s share of the film, the camera is pointed directly at Don, and the ideas are all his.
The movie begins with technical difficulties and the sound guy not being able to hear the monitor… Don helps him figure out the wiring.
He’s in the back seat with Linnea Quigley (and how many of us have had THAT dream? Come on guys, admit it.) who is loaning out the limo to take him to Art’s Deli. It’s a flimsy premise, but a charming one, perfectly in keeping with Jackson’s own predilections. Linnea serves as the interviewer and occasionally the straightman to Don, and they begin their chat with music. Don is well educated when it comes to country and swing and bluegrass, though he’s not completely unknowledgeable about punk and rock and roll. He begins to talk about trying to figure out the difference between Buddha Cowboy songs and getting his groove back the conversation viewers into food and how to tell if there’s any animal products hiding in noodles.
Don and Linnea are both heading out to meet Jackson’s friend Laszlo Kovachs from Chinatown. They lament that it’s one of the last part of Hollywood it still feels like Hollywood – with that old-fashioned, Philip Marlowe, art deco look. The conversation drifts to dogs.
“How long do you think a dalmatian would live?” Don asks Linnea.
“About seven years,” she replies. “The rule is the bigger the dog, the shorter they live”
“What about Snoop Dogg?”
“Depends on how many gangs are after him.”
Don changes the subject to his difficultie’s with actors. One of his friends once told him that hte hardest thing about being a director, it’s not the money thing, but rather the hardest thing is getting the actors in front of the camera. Linnea is skeptical, since there’s so many out of work actors in Hollywood trying to build a reel, but Jackson points out that things are different in the micro budget world.
“I knew this one director who was trying to get this actress to come out and do a shoot for him, but she said she couldn’t because she had to go to class – he told her maybe she could come out and act for him sometime when she had no class…”
Linnea gets irritable when she doesn’t eat.
“You weren’t always a veterinarian?”
Suddenly they realize they have passed the deli and had to turn around to go back.
Linnea asked Jackson if he’d ever got his picture up at a place like Art’s, and he says no but his buddy Laszlo once swapped his own head shot out with Fabian’s up at Pinks Hotdogs no one was looking.
Don likes mustard. It may have something to do with the parable of the mustard seed in the Bible.
They pause their conversation to adjust the lights so that they can better illuminate the back seat. We lose the soundtrack for a couple of minutes while this goes on. That’s one of the things that makes this a Zen documentary by the way, there is no editing – it’s one long shot, no matter what happens. Flubs are left in, lines and stories are repeated and we see it all. To be fair though, Jackson seems to expect this all to get cleaned up and edited out later. Scott Shaw obviously had different ideas.
The sound comes back in with a crash while Jackson adjust his mic.
“Sorry don’t make it, and I can’t believe your driver missed arts deli and ended up with us at Jerry’s… Is she an actress or a driver? “
“Isn’t everybody an actress in LA?”
Jackson’s noticed, that everyone out here seems to have a desire to be something else – do you wanna be in actor or detective or or a rock ‘n’ roll star.
“There’s a big difference between desire and ability. We have the desire, but not the ability – and there is something else… You need passion”
More sound problems, with the audio track going in and out like a bad wire. They have to douse the lights when the cops cruise by – a police car seems far too interested in them. They wait it out and start back up after the cop car vanishes.
“Let’s not have any more technical problems,” Jackson pleads. “What was I talking about again?”
Jackson mistily pines away for the days when Pink’s Hotdogs didn’t sell French fries, back then you could get in and out quicker and the vendors were showmen… Picking up the hotdogs in the middle with their tongs, flipping it up in the air, then catching it in the bun before slathering it with sauerkraut and mustard.
“Some of the people on the Titanic were on their way to Pinks!”
Linnea helps clarify that Jackson is talking about the movie, not the ship.
They finally arrive at Art’s deli. Don’t worry, everything is okay, Linnea has reservations.
It’s a weird little film. I think it was always meant to be a weird little side project…and would have been a lot shorter if edited properly. I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into when I rented this one, but I had been looking forward to it. Linnea is a sweetheart as just about anyone who has met her on the convention circuit will happily attest. Don himself is always an interesting guy who I really wish I could have met. I don’t believe it’s quite the film Jackson envisioned. Despite the contrived nature of the questions and answers, not to mention the technical problems that should have been left on the cutting room floor, at half an hour it’s an easy watch, and in the end, I feel like I came away with just a little more insight on Jackson. That alone is enough for me to recommend this movie.