TRUCKER

Trucker

 

(Hollywood Video Closure)

 

The fact that virtually every piece of praise about this film revolves around Michelle Monaghan’s performance suggest two things: A) That this is a career-making performance built into a film that exists for said performance (see “Crazy Heart,” or “Starting Out In The Evening,” or “That Evening Sun”); and B) that Michelle Monaghan’s performance should be just as good as the films just mentioned, and should be worth the price of admission alone.

So, let us get the plot out of the way, because we can assume that there isn’t much of one and that it isn’t the point. Basically, Monaghan plays a trucker and a hard-living one. She drinks. She sleeps. She sleeps around. She drives a truck. And it turns out she has a kid. But, of course she does. And the kid lives with his father. But, he’s dying of cancer. So, the kid is about to enter the trucker’s life. Neither of them is too fond of this.

Okay, so we’ve seen this story before. True, typically it is the reunion of a father with his son or daughter, but even so, we’ve seen it. And we have some idea about what is going to happen; how it is going to turn out. And I believe it does (Ebert may [half-heartedly] disagree). Maybe the scene is a bit less schmaltzy than we are used to, but the result looks as if it would primarily yield the same sequel.

This then sets the stage for Monaghan to act her little ass off and earn all the praise that she has garnered. And she plays the character well…but I hardly saw the revelation many critics promised me. Sure, she embodies the warm hearted character with a tough exterior character, well, and she and the screenwriter/director imbue her with a vocabulary full of “Dudes” and “Man!” that she actually manages to turn into believable dialogue, but does this create the performance of a lifetime.

And I’m not even sure it would be Monaghan’s fault. How could she turn a better performance in this movie? She does everything it asks for, but does it ask for enough? As I said, she turns banal dialogue into the evocation of a character, but the character is basically a good hearted girl who did not want to be tied down. And now she has a kid.

The supporting performances are all fairly strong as well. Benny Bratt turns on the charm when necessary and little Jimmy Bennett as the son is good although his on and off switch to liking his mom may come a tad too easy.

For me, it is Nathan Frillon as Runner, Monaghan’s next door neighbor, best friend, and would-be love interest that steals the show. He is a kind-hearted character in a purer way than the truckers. He wears his heart on his sleeve and tries his best to be good. Every scene he is in is a pleasure to watch and he adds a true level to the film.

Runner’s brother-in-law helps bring the plot to its conclusion in a bit of a shocking fashion (don’t worry) but I’m not sure it isn’t much more than a device, and surely isn’t adequately explained.

As a slice of life, run of the mill picture, it is good. It doesn’t set too loft of goals, and it achieves what it appears to set out to do. It does so honestly for the most part, and that is nice. But career making for Monaghan or for the director, James Mottern?

I want to say I am asking too much of this film. I went into it, knowing it was a simple film from a first time writer/director who managed to attach a familiar face and create a film that stood out from the pack (I guess he did, with some support from Tribeca). And so I am looking too intensely, and also have the baggage (always harmful, I say) of excessive critical praise.

I want to say that, but if I ever need to save shelf space, or am looking to downsize, I know I’m gonna arrive in the “T”’s, look at “Trucker” and wonder just when in the hell am I ever going to watch it again.

If I do, I’ll let you know.

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