Penny Marshall, director of “A League of Their Own,” has adapted Beverly D”Onofrio”s autobiographical work “Riding in Cars With Boys” and transformed the story into a spirited and heartfelt coming of age film. Drew Barrymore is cast in the starring role of Beverly, an ambitious girl of the “60s who finds herself pregnant at the tender age of 15 and is forced to embark on an odyssey of self discovery and unattainable dreams.
Soon after Beverly realizes that her life as she knows it is forever altered, her best friend, Fay (Britney Murphy), discovers herself to be in the same predicament. Together, they learn to cope with the cards they have been dealt and bid farewell to their youthful days of naivete.
The cast includes Steve Zahn (“Reality Bites” and “Suburbia”), who embodies the character of Raymond, Beverly”s husband and the father of her child. Raymond has an interesting protagonist/antagonist role in the film, what with the startling contrast between his gentle persona and his heroin addiction, which inevitably prompts familial degradation. James Woods (“Virgin Suicides”) performs the role of Beverly”s father and is the absolute epitome of a parental figure distraught with the notion of how innocent their child will never be again.
This film is an honest portrayal of teenage pregnancy and the experience of it all. While the topic is quite solemn, there is adequate comic relief to bring the film to a state of equilibrium within the genre of dramatic comedy. Your eyes may tear up during intense scenes, but you also may be unable to contain your laughter while witnessing the quirkiness of Barrymore.
In addition, the character development of Beverly is extremely well done. The complexity of Barrymore”s character causes you to sympathize with her, yet continue to curse her at the very same instant. Her paradoxical personality is relatable to all.
What I found most astonishing during my viewing experience of “Riding in Cars With Boys” was the performance of Britney Murphy as Fay. In the film, Murphy performs with the same sort of panache that shone through in her role as Daisy in “Girl, Interrupted.” The characters differ greatly (so there does not seem to be any evidence of type casting) seeing as Daisy is a patient at a mental institution who happens to have a fetish for chickens and Fay is a carefree, extroverted teen who is obliged to grow up with rapidity. Nonetheless, both portrayals are absolutely brilliant.
However, the brilliance of Fay does not have a remedial effect towards every portion of the film that happens to be sub par. Indeed, there are tedious moments in this two hour escape from reality. OK, so it seems that the movie drags a bit at times.
Many may feel that “Riding in Cars With Boys” is lacking in cinematic value and is better off as a rental. This may be true, but something must be said for the fact that the film has substance and is acknowledging teenage pregnancies upon an honest platform and is not just another ordinary after-school special.