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Bev (Drew Barrymore), a teenager growing up in the mid 60s in suburban Connecticut, dreams of one day moving and becoming a writer. Feisty and rebellious, at 15, she has a fling with drop-out Ray (Steve Zahn) and falls pregnant. Her conservative parents (James Woods and Lorraine Bracco) are shocked and there’s a shotgun wedding. Her best friend Fay (Brittany Murphy) also falls pregnant, and the two young mothers-to-be dream of the daughters they will have, who will be 'just like us'. But Bev doesn't have a girl, she has a boy – Jason (adult, played by Adam Garcia) – and life is not what she expects. Nor is marriage. Bev is still keen to go to college, but finds that a young child makes fulfilling dreams very difficult. She reaches the crossroads when she discovers Ray is a drug addict and has spent the money she has saved to go to college.

Do you ever feel like laughing and crying at the same time? There are lots of such moments in Riding In Cars With Boys, a bitter-sweet comedic drama with keenly observed details about real life. Penny Marshall has an aptitude for finding the humour in every day situations that we can easily relate to. Many of these moments are painful for those experiencing them, but we recognise them and laugh. In fact, Riding in Cars With Boys is not the light-hearted film you think it might be. Tragedy and humour are at opposing ends of life's see saw, and we spend the entirety of the film going up and down. The impact of the issues canvassed – the many guilts of motherhood, living up to parental expectations, and coping with life's disappointments – build up and up until the powerful climax, an emotional tour de force. Drew Barrymore shows great range, from her flighty 15 year old to a mature young mother of an adult son. Steve Zahn is such an interesting actor; he is so naturally funny, yet the impact he creates in drama cuts to the bone. The scene when Zahn's character meets his grown up son for the first time is a true intersection of comedy and tragedy. The scene itself touched me more than words can express, as did the ensuing actions by both characters. The casting is tops, with stalwart James Wood hitting just the right spot as the dad who cares a little too much about what everyone else thinks, while Brittany Murphy gives Fay a real heart. The child actors who play Jason are all excellent – in particular Logan Arens at 3 years, who delivers an impressive naturalistic and poignant performance. Adam Garcia is a real surprise: his character is rather bland to begin with, but develops beautifully and becomes the emotional heart of the climax. The production design takes us back to the 60s with nostalgia, as does the stirring soundtrack, filled with songs of the day such as the Everly Brothers' Dream, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, I Got You Babe, Ferry Cross the Mersey, In the Midnight Hour. Cute touch at the shotgun wedding, when the band singer sings The Lady Is A Tramp. There are many cute touches, but they are best discovered for yourself. Riding In Cars With Boys might be a little long, but it's full of such enjoyable moments that go to the heart of life's ups and downs. It's a film about dreams, relationships and working out what really matters.
Louise Keller

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CAST: Drew Barrymore, Steve Zahn, Adam Garcia, Brittany Murphy, James Woods, Lorraine Bracco

DIRECTOR: Penny Marshall

PRODUCER: Julie Ansell, James L. Brooks, Laurence Mark, Richard Sakai

SCRIPT: Morgan Ward, (Beverly D'Onofrio book)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Miroslav Ondricek

EDITOR: Lawrence Jordan, Richard Marks


MUSIC: Heitor Pereira, Hans Zimmer

RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 22, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: June 12, 2002

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