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YMMV / Riding in Cars with Boys

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  • Harsher in Hindsight: The fact that Brittany Murphy and Skye McCole Bartusiak both died very young in real life, simply makes the scene of Fay and Amelia moving away much more heartbreaking.
    • Also, this was the very last movie that Penny Marshall directed, before she too passed away 17 years later.
  • Heartwarming Moments: The final scene, in which Bev reconciles with her father, as they both drive home together. What makes it all the more special is that they both sing along to the song "All I Have to do Is Dream" by the Everly Brothers, just as they did at the beginning of the film.
  • Idiot Plot: Deliberately invoked with Deliberate Values Dissonance: If Bev's father didn't isolate the family like she was the black sheep of the family for getting pregnant early on and was more supportive of them, Bev could have potentially have fared much better with Jason and could have possibly balanced family with work (potentially even college). In the time of the movie's setting, teenage pregnancy would earn someone the black sheep label as Bev's father did; but in the more modern times, many families are willing (sadly, not all families) to help raise the grandchild while the parent tackles multiple jobs or even balanced college.
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  • Jerkass Woobie: Bev. Although she was a horrible mother to Jason and a real brat, her father's (and society in general) treatment of her was awful, and even if he was nice to her, she and Ray should have never been together.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Tina. So much more could have been done with her than to just display her as The One Who Made It Out, such as a spotlight on her own home life, her relationship with her boyfriend turned fiancé and a more developed reaction to her best friends' pregnancy. Since they didn't, she ended up being a Satellite Character.
    • Bobby, Faye's husband. So much more could have been done to give him characterization beyond just being the angry, passionate guy who, out of the blue, cheats on Faye once in Vietnam and dumps her.
    • Tommy, who obviously had a crush on Bev and only wanted better for her and for her to go to college (and had his whole role been so pointlessly thrown to the side, possibly could have made it more of a reality), was used so little that he may as well not even been included in the film. Instead, he was used as a quasi-other man that only Bev sort of cared about (plus, even though Jason was looking out for his mother, his flipping him off came off as more bratty than anything else).
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
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    • As sad as Beverly's life has been, she comes off as pretty unlikable throughout the film. Aside from her foolish decisions and getting with a guy like Ray, she's pretty neglectful and emotionally abusive towards Jason, who preferred his father over her; he may have been a lazy addict, but he was more affectionate and sensitive with him. Also, nothing in her life ever seemed to be her fault (which Jason even lampshaded), and she suffered from a huge case of Small Name, Big Ego.
    • Ray's not exactly off the hook, either. Ray may have come across as a likable guy, but he had his own issues he was never going to recover from and Bev, for all her faults and arrogance, knew down the line that Ray would have caused more harm than helped. Jason liked him, but that was only because Ray was going to let him do whatever he wanted.
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