BLUE CAR ****
By GUY FLATLEY
CAST: Agnes Bruckner, David Strathairn,
Margaret Colin, Frances Fisher, A.J. Buckley, Regan Arnold, Sarah
Beuhler, Amy Benedict
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Karen Moncrieff
by the break-up of her parents marriage, 18-year-old Meg bickers
with her mother, tries not to feel abandoned by her father, and
trudges with very little enthusiasm through her senior high-school
year in a colorless suburb of Ohio. Without Mr. Auster, her life
would be a vast slab of gray. Mr. Auster, thanks to some quirk of
providence, is the English teacher who perceives Megs pain
and frustration and, most important, her gift for poetry. Encouraged
by her mentor, she enters a student poetry contest, and qualifies
for the national competition in Florida. And there, in the sunshine
statein a tacky motel bedroom, less than a mile from where
his wife lies sleeping--Meg discovers the naked heat of Mr. Austers
passion for her.
The plot of "Blue Car" may sound cliched, even soap-operatic.
But in reality this is a fresh, compassionate, uncompromising film,
one that never stoops to sentimentality, faux lyricism or blurry
moralizing. Moncrieffs vision is clear, hard and substantial
and, in the end, we feel deeply for the stubborn, frequently irresponsible
Meg, just as we come to accept, if not quite applaud, the furtive,
unfulfilled Mr. Auster. All of the characters--from Meg and Mr.
Auster (played with breathtaking precision by the astonishing Agnes
Bruckner and David Strathairn) to Megs self-centered mother
(Margaret Colin) to her younger, self-mutilating sister (Regan Arnold)
to Mr. Austers bitchy wife (Frances Fisher)are flawed
but, at least to some degree, tenacious and brave.
Praise is due to every actor in this surprisingly polished gem,
and especially to writer-director Karen Moncrieff, who finishes
first with "Blue Car" on her very first time in the drivers