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Film review: Blue Car

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From the opening scenes, it's obvious where "Blue Car" is going. And frankly, it's a journey that's not worth taking.

Which is not a reflection on the performances in this drama. They're very capable, especially by up-and-coming actress Agnes Bruckner. However, her role, and all of them, actually, are in service of a plot that's unbelievably pedestrian.

This is the sort of film you can see playing well at a film festival (in fact, it debuted at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival). It's filled with the expected measure of angst and artistic pretensions that typify such movies. But without the receptive festival atmosphere, this one seems incredibly slight and shallow.

The title "Blue Car" refers to a lingering memory for Megan (Bruckner), a troubled teen who remembers all too well the day her father left her, her sister and their mother behind. It also refers to the name of a composition Meg has been working on.

She's been encouraged to enter a poetry contest by Mr. Auster (veteran indie character actor David Strathairn), a sympathetic teacher who's taken an interest in Meg. And with his coaching, she actually wins a local competition, and the right to compete on a national level in Florida.

However, Meg's mother (Margaret Colin) doesn't have the funds to send her to the Sunshine State. She's also left Meg to take care of her younger sister, Lily (Regan Arnold), who's not taking the separation from her father very well. Lily has begun a hunger strike, has been practicing self-mutilation and has started having visions of angels.

Again, it's painfully obvious where every one of the plot threads are going. There's nothing new or insightful here. Not to give too much away, but the sexual relationship that develops between Meg and her unhappily married high school teacher is an unwelcome plot twist.

Writer/director Karen Moncrieff is simply trying too hard to say something of importance here, instead of letting the drama develop more naturally. And it feels a bit exploitative at times.

However, she does have a fine cast, albeit playing characters who aren't all that interesting or sympathetic (particularly Colin's sour, selfish mother, one of the worst one-note portrayals of a single mom in recent memory).

"Blue Car" is rated R for occasional use of strong sex-related profanity and crude sexual slang terms, a scene of simulated sex and sexual contact, as well as some drug content (theft of prescription drugs, as well as prescription drug abuse). Running time: 88 minutes.

E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com