Austin Film Festival Review: Trucker


Director:James Mottern

Cast:Michelle Monaghan, Jimmy Bennett, Nathan Fillion, Benjamin Bratt, Joey Lauren Adams

Running Time:90.00


Over the last twelve months, Michelle Monaghan's stock has risen dramatically. With roles in films like Gone Baby Gone and Eagle Eye, the once underappreciated actress has taken center stage, becoming a force on the big screen. And with her newly discovered commercial success, Monaghan has decided to go back to her roots, playing the lead in James Mottern's indie film, Trucker.

In the film, Monaghan plays Diane Ford, an unordinary truck driver who carries a slender physique and good-girl charm. And while she may not strike you as a conventional cross country hauler, the girl really isn't your typical anything. Living a life of long hauls, one night stands and innocent flirtation; the against-stereotype workaholic seems to be living the life she was destined to lead. That is, until her ex-husband is suddenly hospitalized, resulting in Peter, her 11-year-old son, appearing on her doorstep. Now forced to juggle her time on the road with her new responsibility at home, Ford must re-evaluate the direction in which her life has taken.

Though the film's premise comes off as being quite simple, in all reality, it isn't. On top of the re-evaluation that sits ahead for Diane, you also have her hot neighbor, a best-friend who is married, yet still in love with the lonely driver. And you can't forget the reoccurring element of her ex-husband's illness, a main stay throughout the course of the film, and a strong hold on the eventual conclusion to this small chapter in Diane's life. Together, the three separate story lines come together fluidly, forming a strong, sturdy central theme, one that looks good on paper, but had difficulty in its transformation to the big screen.

For starters, the acting: Though Monaghan did a magnificent job as Diane, I found myself somewhat disappointed with the rare work of Benjamin Bratt. Easily the most known actor of the group, Bratt brings both experience and confidence to the table in the form of Len, Diane's ex-husband. However, he never delivers. Instead, his scenes are emotionless as he walks through the steps, failing to personify his ill-state and never fully reaching the heart of those watching..

The most noticeable miscue is when Bratt is laying in a hospital bed, talking with his son, telling him of his worsening condition. It is a moment that actors pray for. There is emotion, frustration and heartache. But for some reason, we get nothing as Bratt fails to bat an eyelid during the entire conversation, coming off as cold and unemotional.

In addition, Jimmy Bennett does a miserable job as Peter, Diane's son. Though my expectations are ridiculously low for any child actor, especially a relative unknown, I cannot get over the annoying and often times disrespectful performance from Bennett.

Having never had a relationship with his mother, it is understandable that he doesn't relate to her lifestyle or understand her priorities. However, the way in which he treats her during most of the film is unflattering to say the least. From the constant cursing to the over-the-top attitude problems, the kid is disrespectful to everyone he comes into contact with. And while I understand that the character called for the blatant outlandish remarks, the way in which they are presented does nothing but isolate the film from its audience.

In addition, when Bennett does interact with Monaghan, his actions are too forced as he seems to be playing opposite his true personality. As a result, the interchange between the two actors lacks the raw emotion and sincerity that is needed in order to pull off such a love/hate relationship.

But all of this served as a backdrop to the film's surprisingly strong story and serene cinematography. Creating a new idea and getting one of Hollywood's most intoxicating stars to lead the charge, director James Mottern scores high marks for his directorial debut. But more than the content of the story, the film propels on its simple, almost common look. There are no special effects, no special lighting and no radical camera angles. Instead, you are treated to a pleasant story, one of life, love and troubles that accumulate from both.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.

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