Thursday, October 22, 2009

Movie with Abe: Trucker

Directed by James Mottern
Released October 9, 2009

Truck drivers are usually relegated to tiny supporting roles in films, often as a passerby who offers crucial life advice to a lost protagonist or an unidentified drifter-like murder victim. Trying to anchor someone who spends their daily life on the move to one specific location is a tough thing, and that story can get lost in all of the traveling. Fortunately, “Trucker” is a compelling story with strong performances and a great script.

The heart of the film is Michelle Monaghan as hard-headed trucker Diane. Monaghan first burst onto the scene with a seductive performance opposite Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and then had supporting roles in “North Country,” “Mission Impossible III,” and “Gone Baby Gone.” Her talents were most recently wasted in the entertaining but terrible action flick “Eagle Eye,” and it’s even clearer now that she does possess a great deal of talent. Diane is cut with the same toughness as Ana-Lucia from “Lost,” and lives a life of casual promiscuity while alienating nearly every person whose path she crosses. Looked at in terms of recent female-led independent cinema, she’s a character just as hopelessly not in control of the events in her life as Jenna (Keri Russell) in “Waitress” and Wendy (Michelle Williams) in “Wendy and Lucy.” Yet, unlike those women, she’s not determined to take her situation sitting down and wants to try to do the best she can under the circumstances.

“Trucker” is primarily about the relationship that develops between a mother and her son she’s never known. It’s different from most stories of parents who discover children they never knew they had since those films usually center on fathers unaware that a child exists. Diane clearly remembers that she had a child because she’s the one who gave birth, but it’s something that she’s chosen to discard and distance herself from in order to pursue a solitary lifestyle. It’s a movie that sees its characters transformed gradually like “Julia,” and it’s a terrific portrait of a family unit that comes together under surprising circumstances. Young actor Jimmy Bennett delivers an impressively mature performance as Diane’s son Peter, and the usually swaggering Nathan Fillion tones down his cowboy factor to play Diane’s one and only real friend. They’re a more fascinating family than many normative families, and their story is a sober but optimistic one. “Trucker” is a small independent film that doesn’t attempt to over-dramatize any of its characters or events, and as a result it’s a fine, nuanced glimpse of what it takes to truly influence someone with few, if any, attachments to anything that’s grounded.


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