RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS
Review by Michael Jacobson
Drew Barrymore, Steve Zahn, Brittany Murphy, Adam Garcia, Lorraine Bracco,
Director: Penny Marshall
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 131 Minutes
Release Date: March 19, 2002
I don’t know if I really love him, or I have to love him.
And since I don’t know, it scares me to death…what’s wrong with
think that sometimes, we love people so much we have to become numb to it.
Because if we actually felt how much we really loved them, it would kill
my word for it, Bev…you really do love
movie scenes are so defining, they almost defy description.
Picture a tall, handsome young man on a pay phone in a diner.
An attractive young woman in a car honks to hurry him up.
“You’re girlfriend’s kind of fond of that horn,” a stranger
remarks. “She’s not my
girlfriend,” he replies sullenly. “She’s
my mom.” It’s a scene that
occurs early on, but thankfully leaves us with the impression of light at the
end of the tunnel just as we start out on a long journey with these characters.
Marshall’s latest film Riding in Cars With Boys is a beautiful, funny,
tragic cross section of life. It’s
based on the book by Beverly Donofrio, and it’s the true story of her lifelong
obsession with boys, and how one boy actually did forever change her life for
better AND for worse.
features Drew Barrymore in an astonishing, honest performance that not only is
the best work of her career, but what should have garnered an Oscar nomination.
She plays Bev from age 15 to age 36…a long journey, but not only one of
time…one of triumphs and failures, of love and hate, of transgression and
forgiveness. It’s also a journey
of humor and sorrow, and one I know I won’t ever forget.
is smart, funny, personable…she has big dreams, and big talent, and a
seemingly wonderful future ahead of her. But
the future she planned for herself is not the one fate deals her.
She imagined romance and success, but never pictured a world of
motherhood and being married to a man who tells her “nobody will ever love you
like me”, and who doesn’t understand that’s not exactly what she
wants to hear.
at 15 to the sadness of her mom and dad (Bracco and Woods), she marries that
boy, Ray (Zahn). Despite the turn
of events, she’s still determined to keep her ship on course.
motherhood takes its toll, and it doesn’t help that Ray, despite being sweet,
is hopelessly ineffectual as a husband and father. He may have love, but he doesn’t have strength…what can
Bev possibly do with a man who’s honest enough to admit that he’ll never be
able to kick the heroin habit he’s acquired?
all mothers, Bev is forced to make choices over and over again.
Some are good, some not so good. She
has understandable moments of self pity, and part of her journey is about
learning to take responsibility for the way her life turned out.
This is sadly complicated by her occasional resentment toward her son…a
feeling that gets reciprocated over the years.
After all, in Jason’s world, he has to stop being a kid much too early.
In their relationship, sometimes he almost has to become the parent.
don’t want to make the movie sound too heavy handed…though it gets the drama
of life just right, it also captures the humor of it as well.
Even more succinctly, it express that sometimes humor and tragedy goes
hand in hand. A simple scene can
speak volumes, like when Bev puts on a funny record and dances for her little
boy while his father goes through screaming withdrawal pains in another room.
It’s funny and touching, and even magical in a strange way, even though
you never stop thinking about how Bev never imagined that her life would one day
be like this.
I can’t stress enough the absolute brilliance and courage of Drew
Barrymore’s performance. She’s
always been a terrific actress, but she’s never had a chance to shine the way
she does in this movie. She makes
the most of it…one can feel the pains she must have had pouring her entire
being into everything Bev was. It’s
a performance you’ll never forget once you’ve seen it.
mentions should go to Steve Zahn, who captures a pitiful character without
reservation or judgment and the amazing Brittany Murphy, who plays Bev’s best
friend Fay with equal amounts of strength and fear. James Woods is, of course, terrific as always, taking a
smaller role and making it one of the film’s pivotal points.
credit also Penny Marshall, who’s made a number of films ranging from good to
extremely good…she has now made one that can be called great.
Riding in Cars With Boys is a beautiful and loving testament to
life and all of its craziness, unfairness and unpredictability…all of its ups
and downs…and coming out on the other side realizing we wouldn’t have traded
a moment of it.
was actually so involved in the movie the first time, I completely forgot to pay
attention to how the DVD looked! Thankfully,
commentary tracks give us critics a second chance sometimes.
This is a quality anamorphic offering from Columbia Tri Star with no
flaws…it may pale slightly in comparison to some of their other works simply
because the movie is modestly shot without undue attention to colors and
physical detail. The choice was
right, because this is such a movie about the people and not the places or the
things. Coloring is still quite
good throughout, and the print is remarkably clean, too, with no interference
from grain or other elements of compression.
A worthy transfer that suits the subject matter very tastefully.
a dialogue oriented movie, this 5.1 track won’t rattle your system…it
doesn’t use the .1 channel very much and the rear stage only sparingly for
ambient effects…but the dialogue and music both come through with extreme
clarity and strong presentation across the front stage.
Dynamic range is minimal but effective, as most of the loudness comes
from emotional intensity. All in
all, a very serviceable audio track.
actually have to start with the trailer, which is one of the best I’ve ever
seen for ANY movie. I hope
marketing people from studios everywhere get a look at it! There are also trailers for Charlie’s Angels and A
League of Their Own.
real treat is Drew Barrymore’s commentary track…though she admits to being
an old “Betamax and cassette” person, she finds DVD to her liking, and
expresses excitement about her first commentary.
She speaks comfortably and with humor…she’s not afraid to laugh at
her memories, nor is she afraid to talk about personal aspects of her
performance such as thinking about her relationship with her own mother.
It’s a joyful listen.
are also a 20 minute HBO making-of special and four featurettes covering
Drew’s trailer and how she prepares for her scenes, the cars in the movie, the
recreation of Bev and Ray’s house, and even a short piece about the real life
Bev and Jason…a nice touch. Rounding
out are some filmographies for the leads.