Based on the life of writer Beverly Donofrio (Drew Barrymore), Riding in Cars With Boys is entirely too straight-laced for a coming of age saga, especially with Fat Girl still on the market. All signs point to trouble for the young Bev: Mrs. Donofrio (Lorraine Bracco) addresses her daughter by her first and last name while Bev’s best friend Fay (a hysterical Brittany Murphy) warns of the impending danger of boy tongue. A party leads to proverbial girlhood embarrassments (the school’s hot jock mocks Bev’s love letter) and a baby in the oven courtesy of loveable loser Ray (Steve Zahn). Director Penny Marshall’s deftly mixes humor into the equation, avoiding rank sentimentality. Fearing her parents’ reaction to her pregnancy, Bev tries to commit suicide by throwing herself down a flight of stairs to comic effect. “They say in Puerto Rico you can get rid of it,” says Bev to Fay. Bev’s dreams of going to NYU are put on hold now that she has to raise Jason on her own. Riding in Cars With Boys cuts between Bev’s coming of age and a maudlin 1986 car trip she makes with an older Jason (Adam Garcia). Curiously, Marshall toys with her audience by implying that the characters might be lovers before revealing that Garcia is playing Barrymore’s son. Perhaps not too surprising is that Barrymore is less convincing playing 35 than she is playing 15. A reunion with an older Ray and his hot-heated new wife Shirley (an unwatchable Rosie Perez) leads to all sorts drama. Still, Riding in Cars With Boys casts a charming spell. Marshall tackles Ray’s burgeoning heroin addiction with Hollywood kid gloves though Bev’s relationship with Jason (played throughout the film by six different actors) is a truly touching evocation of a mother’s complex love for a child she comes to resent. The film’s comedic soft spots are priceless, most especially when Jason gets to pee in Bev’s mouth. Despite playing it safe, Riding in Cars With Boys is saved by its touching performances.
- Penny Marshall
- Morgan Ward
- Drew Barrymore, Sarah Gilbert, Steve Zahn, Mika Boorem, Brittany Murphy, Rosie Perez, Vincent Pastore, Adam Garcia, Lorraine Bracco, James Woods
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