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I had the esteemed pleasure of attending the New York Premiere of
first-time director James Mottern's film Trucker starring Michelle
Monaghan. To make even more pleasurable was sitting next to James'
father and having him tell me how he paid for his ticket to support his
son. I share this for a realization of what James' family conveyed and
how closely related it is to his film; a working class family never
forgetting where they came from.
Trucker tells the story of Diane Ford (Monaghan), a young female, independent truck driver living life effortlessly and freely. All seems going to plan or lack there of until her estranged son (Jimmy Bennett) is dropped off on her doorstep due to his father's recent diagnosis of cancer. It is this time where we find Diane's world is turned upside down. Responsibility and the maternal instinct, two important things that have laid dormant in Diane's mind for sometime are swiftly reactivated. Along with this new found purpose, all the other elements that have inhabited her life for ten years are rattled; her awkward relationship with her friend Runner (Nathan Fillion), her ailing ex Leonard (Benjamin Bratt), and his new love in his life Jenny (Joey Lauren Adams).
What Mottern succeeds in his narrative his a brave and sensible character study of a woman who has withdrew herself from "real" human emotion. Not as profound as Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler from 2008, but perhaps a simpler tale, one that doesn't require too much of the viewer. For a good chunk of the picture the young Jimmy Bennett does some marvelous work, perhaps the best child performance of the year thus far. Unfortunately Mottern's writing of the young Peter is often stale and unnatural, giving him far too much credit for an eleven year old boy. Though I can admire the work considerably, what I loved about it, I ultimately turned on somewhere within the 90 minute running time.
Michelle Monaghan on the other hand gives her most personal and powerful performance of her career. Her dedication to Diane is some of the finest work displayed on screen this year and is surely to be in serious consideration for an Oscar nomination. Monaghan devotes her mind and heart into one of the most unlikable characters and demands our respect and attention, something not easily attained by an actor. Her screen chemistry with Jimmy Bennett is some of the most natural and beautiful scenes seen in quite sometime, despite it being filled anger and acrimony.
Despite Monaghan being the best chances of the film to garner awards consideration this season, the unsung hero is Nathan Fillion who gives the most tender and heart warming supporting turn of the year thus far. As I'm sure I might be in the minority for the praise of this actor, I feel inclined to give a superb performance its proper due. I admire it greatly.
Other strong aspects of the picture lie in the cinematography of Lawrence Sher is should find himself with an Independent Spirit Award mention this year as well.
The film is definitely worth a watch and as it may not fit well with everyone, you have to admire the attempt nonetheless. Michelle Monaghan and Nathan Fillion give some of the best works of the year and it's always great to see the birth of a writer/director like James Mottern and where he could go in his career. Trucker is definitely worth the watch.
Diane Ford (Michelle Monaghan), a vivacious and successful independent
truck driver, leads a carefree life of long-haul trucking, one night
stands and all-night drinking with Runner (Nathan Fillion) until the
evening her estranged 11-year-old son, Peter (Jimmy Bennett) is
unexpectedly dropped at her door due to his father's recent diagnosis
of cancer. Peter hasn't seen his mother since he was a baby and wants
to live with Diane as little as she wants him, but they are stuck with
each other - at least for now, while his father Len (Benjamin Bratt) is
in the hospital. Burdened with this new responsibility and seeing the
life of freedom she's fought for now jeopardized, Diane steps
reluctantly into her past and looks sidelong at an uncharted future
that is not as simple or straightforward as she had once believed
possible... Trucker is essentially a character study of this woman,
Diane, who's a bit of lone wolf but is forced to change her life and
behavior in order to be something she doesn't quite know how to be, a
parental figure, a mother. Despite her initial struggle, Diane's
maternal instincts do kick in at some point as she gets closer to her
son, and she also comes to certain realizations regarding her love life
and general lifestyle. Trucker's cinematography is great and the
soundtrack (composed mainly by country music) is very fitting. Michelle
Monaghan was great as Diane and this was probably the most challenging
role of her career so far. With no make up and stripped of most of her
femininity, Monaghan really did personified this tough woman, alienated
from society who's life has taken a toll from being constantly on the
road with no real connection, no real relationships. Nathan Fillion did
a good job too, giving a tender and genuine performance. Jimmy Bennett,
the kid, was pretty good as well. Overall I enjoyed Trucker but I do
think the film lacks a little something, I'm not sure if it's
development, or if the film is too predictable but there's something
missing here. Obviously, films about small town life are usually not
very eventful and that's why Trucker relies so much on the acting and
on its cinematography but I think the film needed something more.
Having said that, Trucker is a pleasant surprise and a very promising
debut by director James Mottern.
I had the opportunity to see "Trucker" the other day and I loved the
flick. The cast did a great job and the look and lighting of the film
added to the tone.
Michelle Monaghan plays Diane Ford, a long haul truck driver, who has her carefree and relationship free life style upended when a medical emergency forces her to take in the child she abandoned 11 years before. Peter's father, played by Benjamin Bratt, is sick with cancer and his girlfriend Jenny, played by the great Joey Lauren Adams is stuck with other obligations and has to leave the kid with Diane. Peter, played by Jimmy Bennett, is just as cross as his mother at the situation. The film deals mainly with Diane and Peter reconnecting and the change that happens in both their lives.
Monaghan kills the part of Diane. She walks fast, talks fast, drives fast, and drinks hard. She refuses to let anyone get close to her including her best friend Runner, played by Nathan Fillion.
In the days after Peter shows up you can see Diane struggling with it. It seems to bring back the memories from the time the kid was born and all the baggage she ran out on but she can't run away this time.
Both Diane and Peter feel their away around each other since they don't know one another that well. We do see some sparks of maternal feelings from Diane and the kid begins to soften in his anger toward his mom.
What got me was seeing Diane's raw emotions at times in her eyes. Kudos' to Monaghan for bring that out in the character. And her character arc is not cliché' or predictable in the least. The film kept my interest for the whole 90 minute running time.
I don't get to see to many great female characters in many films but it was great to have the opportunity to see Diane and get a taste of her long journey.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I Have Worked as a Truck Driver and Being a Truck driver The Portrayal
of the Part that Michelle does Is EXCELLENT.
I mean the Film was So Accurate that they showed Portions of the Movie in a Flying J Truck stops that are in this Country I mean the TV Lounge and the Shower Scene were Probably Filmed on Location at 1 of the Flying J truck stops and if not filmed on Location they Did an EXCELLENT job of Recreating a Flying J.
I do Have to Agree that this movie does BORROW (Not Rip-Off) Some elements of "Over the Top" (Namely the Estranged Parent Child Plot, and Parent Being a Trucker) But "Over the top" was Centered Entirely Around the World of Arm Wrestling, And Not the Real life Struggles of a Mother that Wanted Nothing to Do with her Own Child, In "Over the Top" He had tried to Be a Part of His sons Life But it was the Grandfather that Intervened.
I would Recommend this Movie 100% to ANYBODY that wants an Accurate Portrayal of the Real life Struggles that ALL truck drivers Go through.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Diane Ford is a tough cookie! She is an independent spirit that decided
she wanted to be a truck driver; after ten years on the road, she has
even paid her vehicle. Life on the road is another story. Diane is seen
in a motel room with a stranger with whom she just had sex. Whatever
happened between them is now a thing of the past. She must get on the
road to her next destination. Unfortunately, Diane is not prepared when
she gets a visit from her former husband's companion, Jenny. It has
been a while since Diane walked out on that situation. She even left
her son with his father and has not seen him ever since. Jenny has come
to ask Diane about taking the son back while Len is being treated for
colon cancer. Jenny has to attend her father's funeral and there is not
a place to leave Peter.
While Diane feels this will be only a temporary arrangement. When Peter arrives at her small suburban home, she is not prepared for a stranger she hardly knows. The boy resents the abandonment. He is rebellious, and wants to leave. However much Diane tries to do the mother thing, her son would rather be in another place.
"Trucker", written and directed by James Mottern was a surprise. We have seen other films in which a mother that abandoned a child is reunited with the neglected boy. In most cases, the result is a syrupy mess. That seems not to be the case with this indie film that has two excellent performances. We were surprised by the strength of Michelle Monaghan's take on this tough woman that gave it all up in order to pursue her dream, and her independence. Jimmy Bennett, who plays Peter, brings the right amount of hatred with him, but secretly, meeting his mother, gives him a different outlook on the situation he has experienced. Others in the film include Nathan Fillion, Benjamin Bratt and Joey Lauren Adams.
"Trucker" although not a great film, is worth a look by serious fans.
And it is her movie though her kid in this movie is impeccable and as
convincing as she is. I wonder what his age is. Oh well. Michelle does
not attempt to maintain her looks as Diane Ford. Trucking is not an
easy career and it would take a special kind of woman to do it. Knowing
that Michelle actually learned how to drive an 18-wheeler for this part
proving she is that kind of woman. In fact, she told herself that if
she didn't learn how to drive that truck, she would refuse the part.
That's astounding when you consider how good she is as an actor. The thing about good looking women is, many of them don't seem to have a real mind working behind the smile. Michelle leaves no doubt there's a mind there, and a real personality to contend with too. It's sheer enjoyment to watch her and she's in almost every frame. The reason is obvious, she is capable of moving the story along almost by herself.
The story is fairly straight forward, mom deserts husband and son to live a life on the road, free to do as she likes. Years later she has to take temporary care of that son and finds herself succumbing to her maternal instincts. You see her thrash about unwilling to give up her freedom, but mostly it's a gradual disillusionment with her fairly empty life, despite the same sort of resistance coming from her boy.
I enjoyed the movie a lot and haven't seen any actress do a better job bringing a character to life in years. It was quite impressive how well this new director was able to capture and enhance Michelle's performance. The Academy would be shooting itself in the foot if it didn't recognize Michelle for the rare resource that she is.
What embodies the lonely, self-dependent person than the trucker? Hours
upon hours of driving with nothing but some music and one's own
thoughts. We've seen this protagonist before, just not in the form of
the beautiful Diane (Michelle Monaghan) cussing and driving a truck.
The opening scene with Diane getting a quick sexual fix, pulling out a
cigarette and hitting the road without saying more than a word or two
is not exactly original character development, but James Mottern's
debut film hits a notably real chord in all its silence and
When Diane gets stuck with Peter, an 11-year-old boy who as it turns out is the son she abandoned an infancy, suddenly "Trucker" has the workings of an "unlikely pair go on a road trip comedy." Fortunately, that tired concept of two people who don't like each forming a bond pretty much ends after the first third of the film and everything becomes much more real. After all, Diane is watching Peter because his dad, her ex-husband, is dying of colon cancer -- not your typical circumstance. And rather than Diane and Peter slowly reconnecting as mother and son throughout, there are much more ups and downs.
Occasionally "Trucker" will dip into cliché, namely in its handling of mother-son dialogue. Peter is a smart kid with real kid issues of wanting to be loved and showing it by provoking adults, but a couple times Mottern has him drift into the kid who says something intelligent and revealing about the older character who is frozen by the comment and considers it in a lingering camera shot at the end of the scene. Mottern keeps the film quiet and subtle for so much of it and these techniques put little cracks into his vision.
But Mottern must be thankful for this strong core cast. Monaghan excels in her first dramatic starring role. Diane is not the most complicated of characters to solve, but Monaghan keeps her from ever becoming an open book. Her lone wolf speak-your-mind mentality is much more at odds with the small kernel of her that wants to make meaningful connections with the people who have suddenly become close to her. The young Jimmy Bennett also impresses as Peter, having a lot more scenes requiring self-awareness and meaningful discussion that most child actors. Nathan Fillion, who plays Diane's friend Runner also works his charms and Benjamin Bratt as the dying father earns our sympathy quickly despite his minimal screen time.
"Trucker" could have done with half the number of driving in a truck to contemplative indie music transition sequences, but that's just the kind of film it is. It has that timeless, expected story line of two people who slowly forge a relationship they didn't think they wanted but both need, yet some unpredictable moments and solid performances throughout that keep its message fresh a create genuine sympathy for its characters.
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It is always interesting to see how an independent filmmaker can
re-interpret the classic formulas from commercial cinema, discovering
unexpected deepness and intense emotions where nothing new seemed to
exist.The film Trucker falls into that category, and even though I did
not find it to be a great film, it shows enough honesty to make it very
interesting, at the same time it is supported by excellent
The formula this movie re-interprets is the one of "irresponsible adult takes care of a kid and both end up learning life lessons".That cliché usually impulses pathetic comedies such as The Game Plan, Uptown Girls and Raising Helen.Trucker is not a comedy, even though it follows a similar narrative formula; fortunately, its detailed characters, raw intensity and honest intentions bring to it the realism those comedies lack of, as well as a strong narrative basis in order to tell a classic story in a fresh way.
Director and screenwriter James Mottern created an interesting main character with a credible narrative ark; however, he should have polished some details from her a bit more.Besides, this film has a few moments which feel a bit tiring.
Nevertheless, the brilliant performances are the main thing which compensate that fails to some point.Many people could think that Michelle Monaghan took the leading role in this movie in order to bring one of those "ugly" and glamour-free dramatic performances which worked for Charlize Theron in Monster so well.However, I would not think like that, because Monaghan had already shown her histrionic talent in the excellent Gone Baby Gone, and in Trucker, she confirms that she is a magnificent actress, at the same time she explores levels of deepness that she did not have the opportunity to show in the action films (Eagle Eye, Mission: Impossible III) and comedies (Made of Honor, The Heartbreak Kid) she has been involved in.I do not exaggerate by saying her performance in Trucker is truly phenomenal, and it is pity that it went so unnoticed by the awards and the film critics.Nathan Fillion also brings a precise and honest performance; Jimmy Bennett shows he is a solid young actor, because his performance feels organic; and I also liked the work from actors Benjamin Bratt (by the way, I think this is the first time I can stand his presence in a film) and Joey Lauren Adams.
So, in summary, I would not consider Trucker to be an excellent film, but I liked it pretty much, and I recommend it mainly because of its honesty and its performances.It will be interesting to follow Mottern's career, because he shows potential.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie was made on a very modest budget, reportedly $2Million which
by today's standards is chump change. One of the producers is Michelle
Monaghan who also has the lead role as a trucker with a young son she
deserted when he was only one. I suppose this was a work of passion for
Monaghan and it comes across that way. It is a character study, and it
works sometimes, at other times it comes across as trite.
Michelle Monaghan is Diane Ford, and as the movie opens we see her having aimless sex on the road. When the young man offers to exchange phone numbers, or email addresses, she just looks at him with disbelief and leaves. That is how her life is, and has been.
Jimmy Bennett who was the poor little brother in "Orphan" is Peter, almost an orphan in this story. When Diane left 10 years earlier, he was cared for by Benjamin Bratt as his dad Leonard Bonner. Leonard and Diane had met up when she was 18, she got pregnant quickly, found she could not be a "wife in a house" and that was when she left. But now Leonard is dying of cancer so Peter needs a new home.
We wonder, will it work out with Diane, who only sees him as an obstacle? At least at first.
I had some difficulty concentrating on this movie. I ended up watching it in pieces on 3 separate occasions. There was one, and only one, moment that made me really care, and really see a point in the story. Peter was asleep on Diane's couch when she came in. She looked at him for a few seconds, then went in closer, she smelled his head, then she put her nose close to his nose to smell his breath. It was the type of instinctive thing a mother might do, especially one like Diane who was more like an untamed animal. It showed she was finally beginning to care about him.
Q1: Is Michelle Monaghan the ultimate woman? (Only men need answer, or
try to). The question is asked seriously, and, you will shortly learn,
lies at the heart of this venture, in its DNA, if you will. Monaghan's
roles usually lean in that direction. In Mission Impossible, she was
Tom Cruise' only vulnerability, and to rescue/avenge her he was willing
to risk a world war. In Source Code, Jake Gyllenhaal was willing to
bend the very fabric of Space and Time just to be with her; in Made of
Honor Patrick Dempsey not only was willing to let go of his swinging
bachelor life but almost invaded Scotland to win her; and in Shane
Black's KISS KISS BANG BANG she was the ultimate prize, the lost love
from your childhood that Robert Downey was granted one final chance at.
Against this backdrop, we start to see where this film came from.
Either Monaghan or her agent (pick one) was getting concerned over this
trend and decided to put her in a "real" part, cast against type, to
show that she can play more than one role.
Q2: Does the film work? Yes and no. Yes Michelle can act, and all the players do a fine job of playing parts so gritty you can practically smell the perspiration. Nathan Fillion strays outside his comfort zone which is TV and does a nice job. Benjamin Bratt, a generally under-deployed resource, steals every scene he is in. Which is not too hard, because the script and director keep everything on a low boil for pretty much the entire time.
Q3. Does Monaghan's character have Aspbergers? This was not an issue when the film was made, but with the benefit of hindsight, this would explain a lot. If you think so, tell your friends on the Aspie boards.
Q4. Do we really care if Monaghan's body of work will be remembered as skewing to the same role over and over? The real secret of TRUCKER, a fine little film in its own right, is that Monaghan was (and arguably still is) brilliant at playing the "coveted heroine" role and, if it ain't broke, you probably shouldn't try to fix it. In this context, TRUCKER becomes less an indie drama and more a guilty pleasure for Monaghan's legion of fans. Male fans,we should add. But you already guessed that.
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