Blue Car

on May 02, 2003 by Annlee Ellingson
Agnes Bruckner makes an earnest debut in this coming-of-ager as Meg, an emotionally wrecked teenager with a talent for poetry. Her gift goes unnourished as she spends her free time raising her younger sister Lily (Regan Arnold)--her dad has abandoned the family, and her mom takes night classes after work. When Meg's English teacher, Mr. Auster (David Strathairn), encourages her to enter a poetry contest that he is judging, she wins the local competition and an opportunity to participate in the national finals in Florida. Meg sees the trip as not only a chance to win a scholarship but as an escape for Lily, whose behavior is becoming more and more dangerous.

Meanwhil e, Mr. Auster mutates from a father figure for a girl who desperately needs one to something much more complex, culminating in an act of betrayal at the finals in Florida. There she puts aside the poem about her father and reads one about her teacher instead, exposing his own tortured personal life.

The performances here top-notch across the board. Strathairn successfully captures the tormented rationalization that transforms him from an education professional hesitant to encourage a teenage girl's fantasies to an extremely unhappy, creatively unfulfilled man who sees a young talent as his opportunity to begin anew. And Bruckner conveys the pathos of what it is to be a neglected teen with too many responsibilities and not enough supervision.

But it is Arnold as Lily who may be the real find, quietly acting out in ways that at first seem superfluous or supportive but culminating in a plot-turning moment of supreme tragedy. Even before her climactic act, Arnold shares real chemistry with her on-screen sibling, emulating to near perfection the charged relationship--in which sisters vandalize each other's things for no apparent reason--that ultimately is among the most intimate in the film. Starring David Strathairn, Agnes Bruckner, Margaret Colin, Frances Fisher, AJ Buckley and Regan Arnold. Directed and written by Karen Moncrieff. Produced by Peer Oppenheimer. A Miramax release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 96 min

Tags: coming-of-age, teen, poetry, Agnes Bruckner, Regan Arnold, David Straithairn, family drama, A.J. Buckley, Frances Fisher, Margaret Colin, Karen Moncrieff

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