May 19, 2020  (Web Review)

Uber Land

(2019) 54 min. DVD: $89 ($350 w/PPR from videoproject.com). Video Project.

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

There is certainly merit to Nick St. Charles’ short-feature gripe-a-thon about rideshare giant Uber and accusations against it by disgruntled drivers, but in its recounting of events several years ago in the rapid-change internet world, the documentary tends to have a mien of yesterday’s news. Uber was founded in 2009 (as Ubercab), promising its independent-contractor crew of drivers generous pay and flexible hours. But as the smartphone-driven alternative-taxi service took off, payouts to drivers were sharply cut—and executive salaries accelerated. Here, three drivers in pricey San Francisco, Uber’s HQ, speak of the initial allure of Uber (either as their full-time work or side hustle), now turned sour as diminished earnings and no benefits must pay for private maintenance of their vehicles. Voicing their discontent in public brings some results, but also corporate retaliation. Though Lyft’s billboard is shown, the narrative is surprisingly shy in mentioning Uber’s competition (as well as later iterations Grubhub and Doordash). But as an expose of a gig economy’s drawbacks, the item still has mileage. A strong optional purchase. Aud: C, P. (C. Cassady)