starring David Strathairn, Agnes Bruckner, Margaret Colin, Frances Fisher
written and directed by Karen Moncrieff
by Walter Chaw An object lesson in how Swimming could have turned out had Swimming been weepy and apparently based on a bunch of Carpenters songs, ex-soap star Karen Moncrieff's hyphenate debut Blue Car is a coming-of-sexual-age puberty melodrama that plays like a film written and directed by, well, an ex-soap star. Sayles-favourite David Strathairn plays crinkly-eyed poetry teacher Mr. Auster, who has a yen for quoting Yeats, Rilke, and of course Whitman with the kind of earnest evangelism that points to easy uplift in mainstream twaddle (Dead Poets Society, The Emperor's Club) and a dark Humbert Humbert unreliability in independent twaddle (Smooth Talk). Meg (Agnes Bruckner, a talented young actress) is the product of a broken home: mom is never home, dad is missing, and little sister Lily (Regan Arnold) likes to cut herself and talk as though reading from an overwritten script. Naturally, then, Meg is a bad poet fond of barren-tree imagery and referring to the titular blue car that bore her father away on a "road to nowhere." Blue Car is the sort of film where funerals only take place in the rain and throwing oneself on a bed in a welter of tears is akin to striking the Christ pose on a tabernacle (which also happens)--there is the instantly-regretted, probably justified maternal face-slap to introduce the third act, and a climactic act of public demonstration that summarizes, shames, and elucidates. When Meg looks mournfully over a box of scattered pictures (lighting the corners of her mind, no doubt), Blue Car, already maudlin, suddenly and terrifyingly becomes Purple Rain.
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