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    Blue Car

    Blue notes

    A subtly written and movingly acted portrait of a family after divorce, "Blue Car" is a brilliant drama of a girl's struggles with family, school, self-expression and her own increasingly antisocial personality.


    If you just heard a basic, one-sentence description of what "Blue Car" is about, you probably wouldn't go anywhere near it. Americans, prepared for a summer of "Matrix" overkill and titularly dumb comedies, can hardly be expected to rush out to a movie about a girl who expresses her emotional turmoil through writing poetry. I hear America yawning already.

    Written and directed by: Karen Moncrieff.
    Cast: David Strathairn, Agnes Bruckner, Margaret Colin, Frances Fisher, A.J. Buckley, Regan Arnold, Sarah Beuhler, Amy Benedict.
    Cinematography: Rob Sweeney.
    Music by: Adam Gorgoni.

    Related links: Official site
    But "Blue Car" is the truest depiction I have ever seen on film of how children grow up with divorced parents. Hollywood blockbuster hype notwithstanding, this is actually the must-see movie of the summer.

    Inspired by a teenage girl she met in a poetry workshop who wrote obsessively, not only in notebooks but on her jeans and her skin, writer-director Karen Moncrieff has created a terrific character in the latchkey kid Meg (Agnes Bruckner). Beautiful, smart, fascinating — and just as often misbehaving and irritable — Meg seems asocially indifferent in school until her English teacher (the always-excellent David Strathairn) pushes her to pierce her outer numbness and confront the inner rawness that it masks. The result is "Blue Car," a poem about watching her father drive away, which, when she reads it, is obviously the best piece of work in the room.

    Blue Car  
    Knowing that, Mr. Auster hands back the assignment the next day with the comment, "You can go deeper." He encourages her to strengthen the poem by delving further into her honest inner feelings, and to enter a national poetry contest that could take her to the finals in Florida.

    In another life, Meg's intelligence, creativity and magnetism would take her to a top college and make her a great writer, leader or anything else she chose to be. But she isn't living that life — she is just surviving. Caring (as minimally as possible) for her troubled young sister after school and distracted by her often-absent mother's struggle to keep the family afloat, she is rapidly leaving that textbook life behind. Sullen and angry, she clashes constantly with her mother and subconsciously drives away others as well. She does nothing to hide her contempt for the adults who have let her down, and she rushes toward her own adulthood which she is far less prepared for than she imagines.

    One mark of the skill that went into "Blue Car" is that no character is unsympathetic but every character has deep flaws, Meg most of all. The outstanding Agnes Bruckner — no more than 16 when the film was made — is instantly engaging, which makes her character's antisocial compulsions terribly real and personal. Margaret Colin as her increasingly unstable mother (also seen as one of Diane Lane's friends in "Unfaithful") is someone we'd like to resent but we can also sense her struggle and basic good will. David Strathairn's Auster seems noble and wise, but his weaknesses emerge too as the film builds toward an unexpected ending.

    First-time writer-director Moncrieff, whose acting resume includes a seemingly unpromising string of soap operas and made-for-TV movies, achieves a real breakthrough with "Blue Car." Her film is made with love and humanity but rarely settles for simplistic stereotypes or maudlin emotions. Told with uncomfortable intimacy, the story will feel fundamentally true — in fact, critically important — to the many children of divorce who have survived this kind of upbringing.

    JULY 15, 2003

    Reader comments on Blue Car:

  • shifting in the red   from Heather Brittingham, Oct 11, 2003
  • Regarding the teacher - what do you think?   from Zoom, Oct 25, 2003
  • Re: Regarding the teacher - what do you think?   from L Dale Walter, Jul 9, 2004
  • serious and disturbing   from Dorothea, Oct 29, 2003
  • Re: serious and disturbing   from rick, Dec 17, 2003
  • Re: serious and disturbing   from AJ, Dec 19, 2003
  • Re: serious and disturbing   from Joshua, Dec 19, 2003
  • Re: serious and disturbing   from Bon, Jun 24, 2008
  • Re: serious and disturbing   from kaylbe, Jul 2, 2005
  • David Strathairm   from Blue Car, May 24, 2004
  • Amazing   from Farooq, May 30, 2005
  • music   from cari, Jul 17, 2005
  • Re: music   from megan, Mar 19, 2007
  • Who wrote the poems for Blue Car?   from Katie B., Nov 12, 2005

  • Post a comment on "Blue Car"