Review: “Riding in Cars with Boys”

Some people see a glass either half full or half empty – some are just content with the their lot in life and what they have, others can only look at what’s missing and feel depressed about things undone or choices not made. Most of us are on some level in between, and the more your sensibilities are toward that latter type the more you’ll get into this film (and personally I’m more toward that latter type as I’m rarely content or happy).

Penny Marshall’s first film after a five-year absence from the directing chair is a surprisingly solid slice-of-life drama which proves a showcase for Drew Barrymore. ‘Riding’ looks at a woman from her teenage years through to her mid 30’s and analyses how her various attempts to get out of a life she desperately doesn’t want keep failing due to both her actions and the people around her – ultimately her choices in life.

This is a rare character to have as the heroinne in an American movie – she’s selfish, self-obsessed, very critical of everything and everyone, and desperately unhappy with her lot in life. Barrymore’s sheer energy and experience help her inhabit the role and make it her own and while Marshall’s directing stops things from getting to dark or dreary, Drew gives it a blacker edge than one would expect. Zahn also goes against his usual style with a performance as Bev’s love interest who slowly loses control of his life to drugs and alcohol.

Supporting performances from Murphy as a bubbly friend, Woods & Braco as her parents, and Garcia as a resentful yet hurt son are welcome additions to the mix in an ultimately too slow movie. It certainly has its moments from a very pink shotgun wedding to a surprisingly refreshing cameo by Peter Facinelli as an ex-school chum turned free love style preacher, in the end though its a little too saccharrine to be a hard edged drama, and a little too self-absorbed to be light mainstream fare.