Riding in Cars with Boys

5 out of 10


Well Acted

When one thinks in depth about this film, one really realises just what a self-justifying mobius strip it is, for it is the story of how a girl, living in poverty with a teen pregnancy managed to get her autobiography published and have it turned into this very, same film.

Told in flashback, the film begins with Beverly D`Onofrio (Drew Barrymore) driving with a guy who knows her to seek the legal realease forms neccessary for the making of the film with the explanation of how she arrived being the core of the movie, told almost entirely in flashback. A talented Connecticut girl, she was much loved by her cop father (James Woods), and although she and her family dream of her one day being a great author, her interest with in boys quickly lands her with a pregnancy by a local boy. "Doing the right thing" Raymond (Steve Zahn) proposes to her with the unforgettable line of "Marry me, because I`m shit without you", but after the wedding, he steadily proves to be, almost genetically engineered, to stay as white trash at the bottom of the human pack. Initially her wrecks her dreams by being sloppy, thoughtless and forgetful abnd drags her down, but he steadily deteriorates as his problem with drink and drugs worsens.

A radical departure from her normal frothy movies, Drew Barrymore really shows that she can act, putting in one of her best performances ever. Even so, despite a filmography of well over 30 film titles to her credit, she is amazingly pushed out of the limelight by relative newcommer, Brittany Murphy, who actually comes from a poor white, mining community in the US. Despite clearly only having a minor supporting role as her friend Faye, Murphy is so effective on screen that the Studio was clearly forced to rebill the story as one concerning both girls; her "My Daughter is a Tramp" routine is such a glorious piece of cinema, that it`s almost worth seeing the film just for that alone.

At the end, there is a minor twist in the form of the identity of the man in her life who has collected her to take her to convince Raymond to sign the papers, but it is certainly not the sort of thing that a blockbuster is made of.

Indeed, whilst the concept of a woman struggling to escape her almost inevitable destiny, and to achieve the American dream, may be inspirational to other single mothers, it remains a self-justifying movie that you could easily miss with without regret. Like "American Beauty", such an American way-of-life just seems less relevant to those living north of the 49th parallel, and no amount of great acting can change that.

Slow and self-justifying

Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett