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Film / Riding in Cars with Boys

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A 2001 drama film and the final one directed by Penny Marshall, based on Beverly Donofrio's bestselling memoir of the same name.

A single mother, with dreams of becoming a writer, has a son at the age of 15 in 1965. The story follows her through a failed marriage with the drug-addicted father, and the challenges of raising a son while trying to follow her dreams. The film stars Drew Barrymore as Beverly, the protagonist of the film. She is a rebellious daddy's girl, who meets and gets pregnant by a guy she's not really in love with. She marries him anyway (this is The '60s). Despite the troubled relationship, she tries to follow her dreams. She later leaves him to pursue them. Brittany Murphy plays her best friend, Fay, who also gets pregnant by her boyfriend, who is shipped off to Vietnam.

Contains examples of:

  • The '60s: It's set in 1965, plus the prologue in 1961.
  • The '70s: The middle of the film is set from 1972 to 1974.
  • The '80s: The final arc of the film is set from 1985 to 1986.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Beverly leans towards the emotionally abusive and neglectful versions of such. Highlights include nearly letting Jason drown due to getting high and calling motherhood a curse to his face.
    • Her parents, especially her father, also show tendencies towards this. Although they're already strict parents who before and after she gets pregnant enact Tough Love, they're still emotionally abusive and unsupportive of her and her life choices.
  • Altar the Speed: Teen Pregnancy tends to do that in some marriages. Truth in Television. Also known as a Shotgun Wedding.
  • Auto Erotica: Beverly and Ray, along with Bobby and Fay lose their virginities in their date's car, which also led to Jason and Amelia's conceptions.
  • Based on a True Story: Beverly Donofrio wrote the book about her life.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Why Beverly slept with Ray.
  • Best Friends-in-Law: Beverly's son Jason eventually starts a serious relationship with her best friend's daughter Amelia.
  • Billed Above the Title: Drew Barrymore, as seen in the page image.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Beverly gets her book published but loses her oldest best friend Fay and Jason leaves to be with Amelia. Still, the relationship between mother and son remains strenuous and is likely to stay so.
  • Book Ends: The film begins and ends with Beverly and her father Leonard having a conversation.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Beverly's reaction when she finds out that she's expecting.
  • Children Raise You: Subverted. While Beverly does try to do things that will enrich her and Jason's lives and protect him (and ultimately lets him transfer colleges to be with Amelia), she for the most part remains self-interested and embittered about her circumstances, namely around motherhood robbing her of her dreams.
  • Daddy's Girl: Beverly is clearly one. However, the pregnancy and her life afterward disappoints him.
  • Defiled Forever: Beverly's parents, especially her father, treat her like this when she gets pregnant.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • When Ray reveals his heroin addiction, it's simply expected of Beverly that she'll be the one who gets him clean. The possibility of rehab or professional detox (without which Ray's sobriety is a virtual impossibility) is never brought up.
    • Beverly and Fay are forced to drop out of high school and miss out on attending their school prom due to their pregnancies, Title IX note  didn't exist until the early 1970s.
    • At Beverly's wedding, a pregnant Fay drinks wine along with everyone else save for the bride.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Subverted, Beverly considers having an back-alley abortion in Puerto Rico, since abortion in the United States was outlawed before 1973.
  • Grandparent Favoritism: The relationship between Beverly and her already strict parents was strained to say the least after she became pregnant, but they each adored their grandson, Jason, even into adulthood.
  • Happily Married: Beverly's parents, Leonard and Teresa, are very much so, even enjoying a dance together at Beverly's ordered wedding.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Fay is very kindhearted, and is a loving mother to her daughter Amelia, and equally loving friend to Beverly.
  • It's All About Me: Beverly is more concerned about getting her book published than what kind of emotional damage Jason might suffer coming face-to-face with his deadbeat father.
  • Maternally Challenged: Beverly struggles to take care of her newborn son, at one point she even questions if she really loves him.
  • Never My Fault: Beverly blames Jason for everything wrong with her life, while Jason blames her for everything wrong with his. Ray, at least, knows he has no one to blame but himself.
  • The One Who Made It Out: Tina basically gets everything Beverly ever wanted: doesn't get knocked up, goes to college, and marries a good, reliable man she loves.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Beverly's strongest and healthiest relationship is with her best friend Fay until Fay and Amelia are forced to move away after she's arrested for drying weed.
  • Saying Too Much: Beverly tells her dad she and Ray never did anything below the waist... then she specifies her waist.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Much to Leonard's dismay, who refused to buy Beverly a bra for Christmas when she was 11.
  • Staircase Tumble: Fay suggests that Beverly, who just discovered that she was pregnant, have this to "accidentally" lose the pregnancy (citing how this is how her own Aunt had legitimately lost an intended pregnancy). Although initially disgusted, she soon attempts it multiple times, only to chicken out every time.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Beverly and her best friend, Fay, get pregnant at 15.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: The story spans twenty-five years, so a number of characters are played by two or more actors and actresses.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Beverly's father chooses the former when he arrests Beverly for drying weed.
  • Toxic Friend Influence:
    • Lizard is the one who introduced Ray to drugs in the first place and suffered no consequences for it.
    • Also, Fay's family believes that Beverly is this to their daughter. When initially caught in the car, they forebade her from seeing her, and even years later, the family still dislikes her and only bailed Fay out of jail on the condition that she never speak to Beverly again.
  • Tragic Dream: Beverly just wants to go to college but the demands of her family keep her from it. It's clear that she's now projected all her dreams on Jason. Because her own dreams were dashed because of becoming pregnant of Jason and not getting any help with raising him, she also took out a lot of undue anger on him as well, which does impact quite a few mothers who learn the hard way that early motherhood may not be all it's cracked up to be.
  • Trailers Always Lie: Based off of the trailer and TV spots, many assumed it was a light-hearted family comedy that showed what it was like to be a teen mother in The '60s. They were very wrong.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Jason and Amelia. They grew up as the best of friends due to their mothers' close friendship, and in spite of the hardships they face in trying to be together (namely with him having to be a crutch for his mother), they end up together in the end with him transferring to her college.
  • Worst Wedding Ever: Beverly's Shotgun Wedding due to her 1960s Teen Pregnancy is just as bleak and depressing as you could imagine. She's dressed in an unattractive pink wedding/maternity gown, her groom Ray is more interested in getting drunk and hanging out with his friends, she's ignored by most of the guests save for her best friend Faye and her senile Aunt who keeps mistaking her for her dead cousin, a singer "serenades" her with Frank Sinatra's version "The Lady is a Tramp" (albeit her father stops him at the last word), and said father gives a speech thanking the guests for standing by him and attending the wedding in spite of the less-than-ideal circumstances.