ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
A pretty bumpy ride
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Shits and Giggles
A pretty bumpy ride
Drew gives backseat lovin'
|Riding in Cars With Boys
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Steve Zahn, Brittany Murphy, Adam Garcia, James Woods
Directed by: Penny Marshall
Three 1/2 stars (out of five)
Gazette File Photo
By Mark Polishuk
If you see Riding in Cars With Boys, you may be in for a surprise.
The surprise is not in the title, as several female characters share automobiles with members of the male gender. But the TV ads, which make the film seem like a wacky comedy, are a bit misleading.
While the movie is funny in spots, it's basically a textbook example of family melodrama.
Based on author Beverly Donofrio's memoir, Riding is centred around her experience as a teenage mother struggling to raise a child in the 1960s.
Beverly's (Drew Barrymore) dreams of going to university in New York and becoming a writer are indefinitely postponed after an impromptu "ride in a car with a boy" leaves her pregnant at age 15.
This comes as a great shock to her strict parents (James Woods and Lorraine Bracco) who also aren't impressed with the baby's father, a chronically irresponsible highschool dropout named Ray (Steve Zahn).
As the years pass, Beverly's life continues to spiral downward. After throwing Ray out of the house when he becomes addicted to heroin, she takes a menial job as a waitress. This results in abuse from her former classmates and Beverly's best friend and fellow teen mother Fay (Brittany Murphy), who is eventually forced out of town.
The art direction subtly conveys Beverly's unhappiness, accentuating the drab colours of her home against the cold, grey days of fall and winter.
Despite her troubles, it's difficult to truly sympathize with Beverly because she never stops wallowing in self-pity. This bitterness manifests itself as resentment towards her son Jason.
The film is blunt in showing this resentment; one scene has Beverly absent-mindedly dunk her toddler son underwater because he doesn't know the meanings of certain words.
These events are told in flashback, as the 35-year-old Beverly narrates the story to the now 20-year-old Jason (Adam Garcia) while the two search for Jason's illegitimate father, Ray.
During the ride, Beverly is finally confronted with her own selfishness and this is where Riding seems to lose its plot. The film's ending is its weakest segment and seems like too sudden a resolution.
Despite the missteps of the plot, the film never becomes truly farcical thanks to fine acting.
It's one of Drew Barrymore's best performances. She ages from 15 to 35 in the film and, while she doesn't necessarily look like a teenager, Barrymore accurately portrays the confusion and fear of having her life completely changed at a young age.
Beverly is portrayed with genuiine emotion, while Steve Zahn who has played slackers in several other movies gives Ray good depth as a well-meaning man who can't get his life straightened out.
Running at about two-and-a-half hours, the film is a bit long. Director Penny Marshall has publicly complained about studio interference during the post-production phase, so perhaps Marshall was denied the opportunity to make a tighter edit.
Riding in Cars With Boys may not be the perfect date movie, but it's still worth a ride to the theatre.