A/V Room









Blue Car - Preview

Preview by: Jack Foley

AT A time of year when quality US movies seem to be few and far between, and the bulk of the audience favourites tend to have a number tagged on the end of them, it is the independent sector you frequently need to turn to in order to find anything of genuine worth.

Blue Car is one such film. A firm favourite at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, where it was the first film purchased, snapped up by Miramax for an estimated $1.5 million, it marks the first-time feature from director, Karen Moncrieff, a former actress, and has earned rave reviews wherever it has played.

The film centres around an 18-year-old aspiring poet (played by Agnes Bruckner), who, after being abandoned by her father and neglected by her overworked mother, looks to her English teacher (David Strathairn) for comfort and inspiration.

What begins as a mentoring relationship, however, becomes increasingly complex as the tension in her family escalates.

The film is described by Moncrieff herself as 'a haunting and intimate portrait of a young poet whose hunger for true affection leads to a devastating encounter with an older teacher'.

And it marks something of a labour of love for the former Days of our Loves star, who told Entertainment Weekly that she had become bored 'being one piece in someone else's puzzle'.

''I wanted to be the one designing the puzzle,'' she asserts.

The script subsequently won a 1998 Nicholl Fellowship - a hefty cash endowment from none other than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

When Miramax got hold of it four years later, Moncrieff got her first taste of the studio system, including a new score, and the dreaded test screening feedback.

Once again, Entertainment Weekly reports that test audiences disliked a frank and painful sex scene involving young Meg.

But Moncrieff remained defiant, stating that the scene 'was 'not supposed to be pleasant, it's supposed to be awful and harrowing'.

The result is one which US critics have lapped up...

US reaction

Having quoted from Entertainment Weekly so much, it is only fair to begin this overview of the critical reaction with their verdict. Needless to say, it was glowing, receiving the maximum A grade and being described, simply, as 'superb'.

It concludes: "Here's hoping that in her poetic future, Moncrieff will remain independent, free to deepen all the colors of her talent."

The New York Daily News, meanwhile, referred to it as 'a fine first film, and one you won't easily forget', awarding it two and a half out of four.

While the New York Post described it as an 'unflinchingly honest coming-of-age portrait' and gave it three out of four.

Likewise, the New York Times, which referred to it as 'a most impressive writing and directing debut', and Rolling Stone, which described it as 'a small gem of a movie'.

Slant Magazine referred to it as 'modest and devastating', while TV Guide found it 'a rare, unromantic take on female adolescence as sharp as a razor: It cuts right to the bone'.

Variety stated that it was 'melancholy', and 'insightfully scripted'.

And if there was any doubt that this wasn't one for the mainstream, 'happy-ending' crowd, then consider the verdict of Film Journal, which warned that it is 'too lacking in ironic distance for an indie audience, Blue Car is also too relentless a downer to appeal to the popcorn crowd'.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, stated that 'we've seen this unhappy scenario played out many times before, but seldom with a better eye for detail', while the Boston Globe wrote that 'it's that central dance between teacher and student that makes the movie both hard to watch and worth your attention - a subtle waltz of power in which it's difficult to tell who's leading until too late'.

The Seattle Times continued the accolades, by writing that Blue Car is 'a coming-of-age tale acted with such honesty, and directed with such quiet understanding of its troubled characters, that its nearly unrelenting grimness takes on a poetic quality'.

And, finally, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that 'from the rain-streaked windshield to the unaffected line readings from a stellar cast, there is not a shot in Blue Car that doesn't ring true'.



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