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[Blu-ray Review] ‘Riding in Cars with Boys’ is a Charming Tale of Early Motherhood

Beverly Donofrio (Drew Barrymore) is a pretty typical teenager growing up in a small New England town in the 1960’s. She wants to make her parents proud and she has big dreams of going off to college and becoming a best-selling author. She has a gift for writing too and everyone knows it. But she’s also a teenage girl and as such she’s a bit crazy about boys. Unfortunately boys, especially the teenage variety, often lead to trouble.

At a party one evening Bev approaches a guy she likes — some dumb jock named Sky— and gives him a sweet poem she wrote for him. He proceeds to read it out loud to his friends and they all laugh and make fun of her. Bev runs off to the bathroom to hide and cry and that’s where she meets Ray (Steve Zahn). Ray and Bev don’t know each other, but they’ve seen one another before and Ray happens to be pretty fond of Bev. Once he realizes what happened he goes and defends her honor by picking fight with Sky. After the scuffle Bev and Ray leave the party with Bev’s best friend Fay (Brittany Murphy) and her boyfriend Bobby (Desmond Harrington).

The four of them go to a lookout point where Fay and Bobby begin to have sex in the backseat while Bev and Ray make small talk in the front. Bev clearly isn’t that in to Ray, but she is overjoyed with his kindness and the two begin to start making out and eventually join in on the sexual activities. The fun and games come to a screeching end when Leonard (James Woods), a police officer and Bev’s father, catches them in the act and hauls them all in.

Flash forward a bit and Bev and Ray aren’t really dating, but they are hooking up and eventually Bev gets pregnant and she’d devastated. The plans she had laid out for her future coming crashing down. What will she do? How will she achieves her dream? Desperately trying to figure out a plan Fay tells her about a cousin of hers that fell down some stairs while pregnant. The fall resulted in her losing the baby, so Bev decides to give that a go. Unfortunately she’s unable to allow herself to fall down the stairs and soon comes to grips with the cold hard reality she’s facing — she’s going to have a baby.

Ray wants to marry Bev but she won’t have it. She’s going to have the baby and she’s going to raise it, but she will not let it stop her from carrying out her dreams. The baby will be no more than a minor road bump. The real hurdle is trying to figure out how to tell her parents. She decides to practice on Fay in an effort find some comfort. It doesn’t turn out quite that way. The scene is one of the film’s highlights and a great example of what made Brittany Murphy such a special on-screen presence. Watch for yourself and you’ll see what I mean:

How great is that scene? Bev is in an extremely difficult spot trying to figure out how to present this information from her parents. Practing on her best friend is supposed to help prepare her for this frightening moment. Instead Fay manages to freak Bev out even more. This is unfortunate for Bev, but for the audience it’s a major win.

Bev eventually builds up the courage to tell her parents and it doesn’t go too well. Her father is especially devastated by the news. He’s disappointed, ashamed and embarrassed to have a pregnant teenage daughter. Bev tries to smooth the blow by telling them she has everything all figured out and will still finish school and attend college but they’re not having it. Bev must marry Ray and her life will never be the same again.

Riding in Cars with Boys is about the struggle of trying to raise a child and start a family all while still trying to grow up yourself. Ray isn’t much help as he’s mostly preoccupied with his own demons.

Bev has her ups and downs. Some days she think she has things figured out but then life throws her a curveball and she has to re-evaluate the situation. That’s just life.

Riding in Cars with Boys is an increidbly uplifting and positive film. Bad things happen and tragedy strikes but everything is presented in a humours, light hearted way. That ends up being a bit of a catch-22. The film succeeds because of its funny, feel good nature but at the same time a little more conflict with real consequences would go a long way. Instead of becoming great, it settles into being good.

Surprisingly Riding in Cars with Boys has yet to be released on Blu-ray in the US. Fortunately Australia’s Via Vision Entertainment comes through once again by offering the world premiere of the film on Blu-ray and it’s another Via Vision success. The film looks great presented in HD and has a nice selection of special features. There’s roughly 40 minutes of archival interview footage, all ported over from the DVD I believe. A bunch of the cast crew appear throughout the features and unsurprisingly the best stuff comes from Barrymore. The release also includes an audio commentary with Barrymore.

Riding in Cars with Boys isn’t without its flaws, but it’s a charming movie about the struggles of motherhood and welcome addition to the world of Blu-ray.

Riding in Cars with Boys is available Blu-ray for the time first-time anywhere in the world courtesy of Australia’s Via Vision Entertainment.

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