Riding in Cars with Boys, the new film by Penny Marshall, encapsulates the true essence of life – a bittersweet symphony of love, anger, frustration and beauty. Based on the autobiographical memoirs of the same title by author Beverly Donofrio, Riding in Cars chronicles the life of a young Beverly, played by Drew Barrymore, from ages 15-35 throughout all the unexpected twists she is thrown.
Growing up in Connecticut, the daughter of a strict police officer and a housewife, Beverly is a bright, funny, ambitious, and somewhat hormonally driven teenager with aspirations of moving to New York City and becoming a writer. However, an 18-year-old high school dropout named Ray Hasek (Steve Zahn) sidelines her from her dream when she ends up pregnant at 15.
After an awkward wedding ceremony, where Beverly is publicly denounced by her father (James Woods), she and Ray set up a home and begin raising their son Jason. Ray, the classic screw-up with a heart of gold, consistently adds to the growing stress of the situation.
Continuing her schooling, Beverly earns her GED, but is once again thrown back when she discovers that her husband is a drug addict and has spent all her money for college on heroin. After failed attempts at rehabilitation, Ray disappears from her life, and Beverly is left to raise Jason alone. Her only support comes from her best friend Fay, played by Brittany Murphy, who shines in the role.
Riding in Cars is a beautiful tale of life’s hardships and highlights. It parallels reality to the point of frustration, while making you laugh and cry at the same time. Dragging at some points, the two-plus hour movie more than compensates with emotionally uplifting triumphs throughout.
While the concept of Barrymore portraying a 15-year-old seems like a stretch, she brings the character of Beverly Donofrio to life in a witty, if somewhat irreverent, performance.
Riding in Cars conveys a warm feeling of gratification that is sure to touch anyone who has a heart.