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TRUCKER (director/writer: James Mottern; cinematographer: Lawrence Sher; editor: Deirdre Slevin; music: Mychael Danna; cast: Michelle Monaghan (Diane Ford), Nathan Fillion (Runner), Benjamin Bratt (Len Bonner), Joey Lauren Adams (Jenny Bell), Jimmy Bennett (Peter); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Scott Hanson/Galt Niederhoffer/Celine Rattray/Daniela Taplin Lundberg; Monterey Media; 2008)
“The only thing to take away from this bumpy ride is the smooth performance by Monaghan.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

First-time writer and director James Mottern gets a superb performance from his trucker heroine, Michelle Monaghan, but fails to give her a compelling story to make it all worthwhile. It’s a road pic about a trucker, but this time the trucker is a woman. The catch is that she’s just as macho and money-hungry as the guy truckers.

The film opens with the lean Diane (Michelle Monaghan) getting balled at a motel truck stop and rushing off in the morning to hop on her rig to make sure she delivers her goods on time. The independent trucker, who owns her own rig, returns to her California home. There good-natured married friend Runner (Nathan Fillion) takes her to a VFW dance and she out drinks him. The next morning an unannounced Jenny Bell (Joey Lauren Adams), the live-in girlfriend of her ex-husband Len Bonner (Benjamin Bratt), drops off for three weeks her 11-year-old son Peter (Jimmy Bennett). Jenny says she has important family business and Len is in the hospital with colon cancer, and they can’t get anyone to watch the kid.

Stuck with the angry loner kid, Diane takes him along on the rig. After more than a ten year estrangement with hubby, the mother-son relationship is not good. The film quickly goes downhill as the inexperienced director goes the conventional route and turns the slice of life drama into a routine mother-child reunion scene. I must have seen something like this a thousand times before and Mottern brings nothing new to the table, in an indie pic calling out to be taken down an unfamiliar road.

We get to see the free-spirited Diane really has maternal instincts when she goes to bat for the bratty kid, who takes some lumps at a mini-mart from idle teens. For atmosphere we get to see the ballsy chic driving one of these big rigs, truck stops, dispatching offices, monotonous highways, the love woes among the working-class and the predictable eventual bonding of mother and son.

The only thing to take away from this bumpy ride is the smooth performance by Monaghan.

REVIEWED ON 10/23/2009 GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”