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.
By JOSHUA TANZER
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.
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.
|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
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.
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|
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