Road Trip

A well-conceived and acted drama about growing up.

Finally, a movie with heart and head, that is engaging, telling and yet splittingly funny. Founded on a memoir written by Beverly Donofrio, "Riding In Cars With Boys" is an excellent adaptation, containing a clever cast and a crisp script. Directed by Penny Marshall, it rides the wave of summer flicks this season with its seamless flow and tightly bound narrative.

Beverly Donofrio (Drew Barrymore), a spunky young kid growing up in 60’s Connecticut, with puritanical parents (James Wood and Lorraine Bracco) is the kind that asks all the right questions and gets sent to the corner for them. Living the sugar-happy life of the pre-hippie period, she’s got boys on the mind and curfew on the side. At a party she crashes, she meets Ray Hasek (Steve Zahn), a junkie who lands a punch on the bloke that embarrassed her, and subsequently begins to go out with him.

A couple of months later, she’s fifteen, in the middle of school, and very pregnant. Forced to marry Ray, she’s closeted in a situation that leaves her little option, as she’s got to leave school, to play Mommy for keeps.

Keeping pace with her own fractured adolescence is Fay (Brittany Murphy), Beverly’s best friend, who finds herself with bloated belly about the same time Beverly sports a bulge.

Coping with a drug addict husband and an implike kid, Beverly is driven to survive hippie hell with the sole goal of attaining a college degree. This film is about journeying an arduous stretch, with few actual road trips, save one that sews the parts of the past that make this story. Jason (Adam Garcia) is the son Beverly dedicates her book "Riding In Cars With Boys" to, and as she takes this lone last trip with him, both lay to rest their misgivings and admonitions, and embrace a past that has made their future.

I could rave about their performances, and claim Barrymore to be the most versatile actor I’ve seen in ages (this one ought to receive an award), while the other actors keep step with equally endearing pieces. Penny Marshall, as director, was able to extract just the right juices for the script, and keep the action relevant without digressing. What may seem like a heavy dose of drama is only a thought-provoking premise woven with yards of wit and basic human spirit.

This article was first published on 14 Feb 2002.