Sunday, February 5, 2017

Riding in Cars With Boys

Year 9, Day 36 - 2/5/17 - Movie #2,536

BEFORE: Brittany Murphy carries over from "Just Married", and I can't really program anything for the Super Bowl - I mean, where's the romance that's also about football?  I'm surprised Hollywood never put together a rom-com called "Football Wives" that would pander to both genders in the hopes of being a hit - you know, an ensemble piece like "Valentine's Day" or "Love, Actually" that would track three relationships in different stages, all centered around NFL players or staffers.  That's my elevator pitch, some studio now owes me a big check for my idea.   But I watched "Concussion" and "Focus" (set at a football championship) a few weeks ago, that's going to have to suffice.  

Here's what's coming up tomorrow, Feb. 6, in TCM's "31 Days of Oscar" programming:
6:45 AM The Constant Nymph (1943)
8:45 AM Cool Hand Luke (1967)
11:00 AM Coquette (1929)
12:30 PM The Corn Is Green (1945)
2:30 PM The Corsican Brothers (1941)
4:30 PM Crossfire (1947)
6:00 PM The Crowd (1928)
8:00 PM A Cry in the Dark (1988)
10:15 PM Days of Wine and Roses (1962) 
12:30 AM The Deer Hunter (1978)
3:45 AM Deliverance (1972)
5:45 AM Designing Woman (1957)

I've only see 4 of these 12 ("Cool Hand Luke", "Days of Wine and Roses", "The Deer Hunter" and "Deliverance") - last year I watched a version of "The Corsican Brothers", but it was the one with Cheech & Chong, not this one.  So my record slips a little, to 30 seen out of 63.

THE PLOT: A single mother, with dreams of becoming a writer, has a son at the age of 15 in 1965 and goes through a failed marriage with the drug-addicted father.

AFTER: Well, at least the slapstick comedy seems to be over - I'm finally into some more serious fare.  This is a film about a girl who gets pregnant while still in high-school in the mid-1960's, a time at which that sort of thing was still frowned upon, or at least gossiped about.  This forces her to get married to a man she perceives as being socially beneath her, and the resulting chain of events keeps her in small-town Connecticut for most of her life.  Between raising the kid and never having spare money, she's never able to follow her dreams and go to college.  

Which sort of reminds me of "Joy", which I watched a few weeks back, where Joy was constantly mad with her parents because they never put her in touch with a patent lawyer when she was a kid with ideas for inventions.  In this film Beverly always blames someone else for her situation - her parents, her husband, her kid.  When a friend from high school returns home after attending college in California, he asks her why she doesn't just pack up and head out to the West Coast herself, attend a state school so the state will pay for it.  Well, this leads to an obvious question, since they have state colleges in Connecticut and New York, too - why can't she attend one of those?  

Her story is told mostly in flashback (ugh, again?) as she and her adult son travel across the state to get her ex-husband to sign a waiver so that her book about their relationship can be published.  And we the audience know she's an excellent mother, because every time she gets upset with her son, she yells, "I was a GOOD mother!"  Well, yeah, if that's all that it takes.  Then what about the scenes where she wouldn't change her son's diaper, and relied on her own mother's help to keep her house clean?  And when her son is playing on top of an above-ground pool while she's talking to her friend about what a great mother she is, you can almost predict the ironic result of what's going on in the background. 

This film was based on the autobiography of Beverly Donofrio, and it has that feel of trying to explain why nothing bad that happened to her was ever her fault.  And I'm sure she remembers things this way, even if they didn't quite happen this way.  Like, the word "boobs" might date back to the 1930's, but I have a hard time believing that an 11-year old girl in 1961 would use it while talking to her father. 

Another problem was created by casting the then 26-year old Drew Barrymore to play Beverly at 15 and beyond.  Drew didn't even look 15 when she WAS 15, so what made some director think she could pull this off at 26?  She didn't look old enough when she played Beverly later in life either, in fact in real life she was two years younger than the actor playing her son.  

The worst thing was probably the hypocrisy of not allowing her own son to transfer colleges the way he wanted to, which made him feel just as trapped as she did, but she never realized it until the end.  I guess she finally may have got some understanding that she screwed up her parents' lives the same way that her son screwed up hers, but why was it so difficult to realize this?  In the end, people sort of get what they all want, and that's a powerful metaphor for life, but it's so much work getting there...

Also starring Drew Barrymore (last seen in "Altered States"), Steve Zahn (last seen in "Bandidas"), James Woods (last seen in "The Specialist"), Lorraine Bracco (last seen in "The Pick-Up Artist"), Adam Garcia, Sara Gilbert (last seen in "Laws of Attraction"), Peter Facinelli (last seen in "Supernova"), Rosie Perez (last seen in "Pitch Perfect 2"), Vincent Pastore, David Moscow (also carrying over from "Just Married"), Logan Lerman (last seen in "Fury"), with a cameo from Maggie Gyllenhaal (last seen in "Secretary").

RATING: 4 out of 10 essay questions

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