' ' Cinema Romantico: Trucker

Monday, January 25, 2010


I never thought Michelle Monaghan looked right at the start of "Mission Impossible 3". That's where she is the fiance of Tom Cruise's super-secret agent and they are hosting a party and she's dressed up really nice and wearing lipstick. Lipstick! It always throws me off. Michelle Monaghan doesn't seem like the lipstick wearing kind. Which isn't to say she's an unattractive woman, because she's not, but because she seems so ready, set, go with a rougher edge. And in the indie "Trucker" (out now on video) that rougher edge is on display for all to see.

Monaghan is the character of the title, Diane Ford, a tried and true loner, endlessly out on the road, about the only place where she is dependable. She has a son Peter (Jimmy Bennett) that she has not seen since his birth. She wants no part of him. Except, of course, now Peter's dad, Len (Benjamin Bratt), is sick in the hospital with colon cancer. He has been living with Jenny (Joey Lauren Adams) except, of course, her mother has died and she has to go away to the funeral. So Jenny shows up one night at Diane's house with Peter as Diane is stumbling home drunk and leaves Peter with his real mom. Len's disease will get worse. Who will get Peter?

I am certain the story sounds conventional and so for the umpteenth time I could refer to the esteemed Roger Ebert's line in which he says "It's not what a movie's about but how it's about it" but I know you are all tired of that line and so I won't mention it. Instead I will observe how close of attention writer/director James Mottern's film pays to its characters and how strongly it refuses the urge to let off anyone easy.

Beyond question, Diane is not prepared to rear a child. She refers to him the entire movie as either "kid" or "dude". Everything with poor Peter seems an after thought. "Shouldn't you brush your teeth or something?" she asks. He reveals he hasn't even had a toothbrush up to this point. There is a twist on the ancient scene of father & son playing catch where she pitches a baseball to her son and, sure enough, hits him. "I didn't mean that," she says. She never says she's sorry. She just needs to expunge her guilt.

She appears uninterested in any sort of stability, save for owning her big rig and her house. (One paid for, the the other not.) She has a male friend, Runner (Nathan Fillion), who is married, but often finds himself drinking with Diane or hanging out at her house. He watches Peter when she is away. He is kind and patient. It is clear he likes Diane. She does not reciprocate. This relationship also does not end exactly in the way you expect.

(Fillion, by the way, is as perfect in his part as Monaghan. He exudes untold depth just by purchasing himself and Peter breakfast burritos. It's amazing. So why, might I ask, does this guy not get more leading roles? Is he too talented? Too charismatic? Would a movie all to himself simply be too good to ever allow? He's like the Male Rachel McAdams. Honestly, it's things like this that make me re-realize I will never have any idea what the hell goes on out in Hollywood. Dane Cook can get his own movie but not Nathan Fillion?)

The film's most beautiful touch is how it portrays Peter as clearly having sprung from his parents (you'd think this would be foregone but, alas, that is not always the case in the movies). He distrusts and dislikes people as much as his mother. She curses at him, he curses right back. As his father Bratt has limited screen time to convey the type of person he is, yet a few lines - like the one about not knowing where his parents are even as he lays dying - seem to suggest a life that one time was much like Diane's. "Trucker" makes it clear that Peter is trotting down the primrose path to the same type of life as his parents.

"I made a lot of mistakes in my life and I'm just trying to keep you from doing the same." This is what Clint Eastwood's boxing manager once said to Hilary Swank's boxer. "Trucker" is not a portrait of a parent trying to mold her son into all that which she wants him to be. It's a portrait of a parent trying to heed those words. She knows she's made mistakes. She knows she's going to keep making them. She just wants to try and keep Peter from doing the same.


Rory Larry said...

Fillion had his chance at his own movie. Slither, it was pretty bad.

Nick Prigge said...

I was unfamiliar with that one so I pulled up Ebert's review. Fillion, Michael Rooker, Elizabeth Banks, Jenna Fischer? Not too shabby. Too bad it wasn't any good.

But maybe they could get him a better script? Possibly? Someone?

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