On “The Fast and the Furious”

In which I finally watch Point Brake

Sara Benincasa
19 min readApr 18, 2021


A still from the 2001 film “The Fast and the Furious” featuring Vin Diesel on the left and Paul Walker on the right, both looking off to the left of the viewer.

Once upon a time in New Jersey, I went on a date with a friend of Paul Walker, the actor who had costarred in the previous summer’s car soap opera fantasia The Fast and the Furious. Brett (not his real name) was surprised I hadn’t seen the movie, which he claimed “totally sucked.” It would be nearly two decades before I found out how wrong he was.

My first viewing of The Fast and the Furious is where we’re headed in this essay, and we’ll get there, I promise. But first, we need to take some detours. Buckle up or strap in or do whatever you need to ride out any urge to hit that ejector seat, family. We won’t stop at every scenic overlook and fetid cesspool along the way. But I want to provide some context for where I was when the fast car series commenced its loving grip on the collective American psyche, and why my individual psyche was otherwise engaged.

I like going to the movies, but I was otherwise occupied for most of 2001. Specifically, I spent a lot of that year wanting to kill myself and/or being afraid to leave my apartment. It wasn’t exactly a hobby, but it kept me busy enough.

My suicidal ideation was unconnected to the summer debut of The Fast and the Furious, though some film critics seemed to feel a certain desire for the sweet relief of death after sitting through it. As for my agoraphobia, well, even on my best days in 2001, I would not have been inclined to pay to see a feature-length meditation on vehicular transport. Some days I had panic attacks just stepping outside my apartment building.

The movie was a hit, but so were other summer movies, and I didn’t pay any attention. June passed, and my anxiety and depression worsened, and then August, and things got worse still, and then came September 2001.

For some families in Boston, where I lived, and in New Jersey, where I grew up, nothing would ever be the same. This would be true, too, for the people abroad whose lives were destroyed by the so-called War on Terror, that multi-tentacled beast funded for the next twenty years by the American people and our elected officials.

When I moved to Los Angeles a decade later, I would see the big downtown tent city clogged with unhoused people, some of…



Sara Benincasa

Author, REAL ARTISTS HAVE DAY JOBS & other books. Writer of scripts. Host of WELL, THIS ISN’T NORMAL podcast. Patreon.com/SaraBenincasa