For anyone teaching a course to young actors, screenwriters, or directors, this pic is an excellent tool. The problems inherent in the pic are just as instructive as its shining moments leaving a great deal of room to pick apart camera techinques, how the use of a musical score can detract from or add to a scene, and especially internalization of motive leading to choices an actor must make to infuse life into what otherwise could end up being a stereotypical, two-dimensional character.
Tobey Maguire has built a very respectable career on his sensitive, understated performances, yet the raw J.T. offers insight into Maguire's ability to branch out into personalities that are not always the "hero." Though his relative inexperience does show through in places, the strong believability of his interpretation of J.T. clearly shows the raw talent evident in even his early work.
By far the most provoking performance in the pic is the underrated Amy Hathaway as the internally tortured and physically exploited Tanya. A solid character interpretation from start to finish, Hathaway only stumbles when the script asks her for unnecessarily gratuitous lust, specifically the silly romp-in-the-car scene with Maguire. On a contrasting note, during the powerful bedroom scene with the Mayor, Hathaway shines by deftly conveying a deep-seated anguish for Tanya's unfortunate situation that is craftily hidden during the remainder of her performance.
Also highly noteworthy is Benecio Del Toro. It is common knowledge that small-budget productions can offer a wider scope of interpretation for an actor, and Del Toro demonstrates this to the fullest extent. A master of subtle physical acting, this early role showcases the talent that blossomed in later years. Along the same lines, Christina Naify as Ms. Smith does a nice job creating a real person out of a small amount of material by exploring physical gestures and vocal patterns that make up so much of a human being's personality.
All of the actors, and to a large extent the script itself, are nearly annihilated in many places by the exasperatingly poor musical score. Instead of developing in the viewer a deeper understanding of the character's interactions, the score is often bad enough to be considered a true "groaner."
A must-see for Maguire, Hathaway, Del Toro, and those quirky Adam West fans, "Joyride" is more interesting as a study of technique than great storytelling, but well worth the ride.