ninth symphony films - movie reviews

RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS (2001)


DIRECTOR  -  penny marshall

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  132 minutes

RELEASED  -  19 october 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  columbia pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  riding in cars

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $48,000,000
riding in cars with boys - a shot from the film

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SYNOPSIS:
about a woman who had grand dreams as a teenager only to find them derailed by her weakness for boys, which resulted in an accidental pregnancy.




MOVIE FACT:
the real life beverly and jason d'onofrio appear in the movie as guests at beverly's wedding. they can be seen sitting directly behind barrymore in the wedding scene.


MOVIE FOTOS:

picture from riding in cars with boys

picture from riding in cars with boys

picture from riding in cars with boys



RATING:


two out of four possible stars

Too long, too weepy, and kind of meandering. Riding in Cars with Boys has an overabundance of saggy spots and commonplace scenes that don't allow the film to become anything more than a "sweet little movie." Touted as a tour-de-force by Drew Barrymore, I can't say I remember any achievements in the film worthy of a second look or an award. The movie concerns the journey of a woman who has a child at fifteen and spends much of her life trying to get away from what she feels is an oppressive situation. Which might be than enough for the plot of the film, but the story here sometimes wanders off sleepwalking down the street while the characters are left to compensate for the lack of direction. and it seems as though this film doesn't always move fast enough.

And I think that might stem from the fact that the whole piece is just too long. Not Saving Private Ryan long, but somewhere close. Clocking in at 12 minutes over 2 hours, I find that while the story was unique and some of the characters were more than interesting, this combination was not enough to keep me interested for the entire run of the film. And I believe that this problem comes from a weak main character. Heartwarming in spots and genuinely annoying in others, Drew is on the screen for too long. The film takes place over about 25 years, sometimes the scenes extend for a few extra minutes.

An example of this is during the wedding between drew and Steve's characters. The scene does have some pertinent information to share with the audience, but it doesn't give the audience this information fast enough. It gives us a pieces, waits a few minutes, and then feeds us another. heading into the second act, a film should keep up the pace, and Riding in Cars doesn't. This film probably would have been more engrossing if the editor had kept the length under two hours. Two hours is a long movie anyhow, and this film just doesn't have enough content to keep it going for that long. It's not that the story is empty, it's that the individual scenes go on too long.

Some of the dialogue could have been cut for a very simple fix to this problem. But I don't know, maybe Penny Marshall is a dragon in the editing room. I cannot say that Drew's performance wowed me that much. Perhaps if her performance really had been a standout . . . though, I didn't find her character too likeable throughout the film given that she doesn't seem to go through any character transformation by the time the film ends. It is as if she's stayed a fifteen-year-old girl for the run of the picture. This state is even hinted at in the dialogue by the actor who plays a grown up version of her child: that she never progressed mentally from a teenager into an adult.

Drew's character (or acting, rather) was also somewhat abrasive. This contributed to my not rooting for her character at the end of the film. In nearly every scene, she has an argument with another character in the film. And for those out there who feel this conflict is necessary for the film to progress, you're right. But the fighting sometimes became a burden. Nothing good ever happens to drew's character. This is kind of depressing. and though the film was humorous in parts, it was pretty gloomy most of the time.

And in looking at the supporting cast for this film, I find the strongest character was that of Steve Zahn's performances as drew's drug-addicted husband, "Raymond." His character was not very original, but his accomplishment is in his believability as that person. His character must pass through a 25-year aging process through the film and Zahn gives good performances all around. His character is actually more sympathetic than Drew's. In the midst of his drug problems and his fights with his family, he still comes off as someone to empathize with. Drew's character, on the other hand, is just very grating and annoying.

And she never really gets any better. I hate to characterize her acting as annoying, but I don't seen any other way to describe it. She is a mean person in the film and is not the usual protagonist type character. consequently, the people around her in the film are more interesting than her. Other notable performances from supporting characters (and this movie has a pretty accomplished cast) include Brittany Murphy's portrayal as "Faye," the friend-through-thick-and-thin-character. Like Zahn, her performance was one that made me feel empathy for her character.

She was in no way annoying and had a terrific sense of comedic timing. Like her performance in Don't Say a Word, Brittany nearly stole the show. Two additional supporting roles that rounded out the cast well were Lorraine Bracco's performance as Drew's mother, and James Woods's as her father. Though it is doubtful either of these accomplished actors could give a bad performance.

A very funny scene occurs when Drew's character goes into labor and Lorraine becomes speechless, a large smile covering her face. She is hilarious without saying a word. So to sum up, I believe it would fair to say that while she was surrounded by an excellent cast, Drew Barrymore did not really carry the weight of this very powerful role. Her character wasn't sympathetic, because there was too much time available during the film to hate her character. I can't help but feel sorry for the character of Beverly D'Onofrio, but I don't feel that I can sympathize with her situation. She was so mean in the film.

Mean to her kid, mean to her parents, mean to everybody but her best friend (Brittany's character). I almost wonder if the real Beverly had final approval on this film. She was a co-producer so she must have had some involvement in the making of the movie. But really, if the editor of this film had just cut out the overly long scenes and some of Drew Barrymore's tantrums, this movie would have been an entertaining yet dramatic addition to her filmography.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.


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