In the drama Trucker, Michelle Monaghan stars as a crude truck driver who is forced to care for her estranged son when the boy's father falls ill. The movie is a well-made, well-acted directorial debut for writer James Mottern, but it unfortunately falls victim to one very superficial issue: Monaghan is too pretty for her character.
Monaghan plays Diane Ford, a loner who drives across the country and back, weeks on end, making money for herself and no one else. Her only true friend is Runner (Nathan Fillion), a married man, though both want more from each other. Instead, she spends her nights with random men on the road, cussing up a storm, seemingly impervious to emotional connection. When her son Peter (Jimmy Bennett, who played the young James Kirk in Star Trek) comes to stay with her, however, she begrudgingly is forced to change, though she clings and claws to her old way of life as much as she can.
Monaghan's performance is impressive; the gorgeous actress, who has had lead roles in Mission: Impossible III, The Heartbreak Kid, Made of Honor and Eagle Eye, is at her best here, showing that she is fully capable of doing more than action movies and comedies. She walks that fine line between being unlikable (she did, after all, "abandon" her child as a baby) and completely the opposite. Paired off Bennett, who also delivers a great performance, the two dominate the film as they slowly find common ground with one another.
Monaghan's performance, supported by Mottern's screenplay, is a strong selling point for the film, which all around is one of the better movies of 2009. Trucker is about a mother reuniting with her son, but it is grittier, more realistic and lacking cheesy melodrama. Monaghan tears up the screen in a way I wasn't expecting.
Unfortunately, the old adage that, "in Hollywood, to really get respect, a beautiful actress must ugly herself down," holds true here. Monaghan does a great job, but I had trouble getting past the fact that she's the hottest truck driver I've ever seen. By far. In fact, I can't recall ever seeing an even remotely attractive truck driver in my 27 years of life. Throughout the movie, my mind kept returning to Charlize Theron's turn in Monster; while Monaghan's character shouldn't have been taken that far, something needed to be done to make her look a little different. Sadly, the lack of such makeup might be the difference between her getting an Oscar nomination and staying home come March.
Trucker is one of the better movies of 2009, but it's also been a weak year. The movie is well-written, well-acted and well-directed, but it lacks the emotional punch I was hoping for. It is a strong movie, but it also lacks something to remember; a year from now, or five years from now, will I be getting the urge to watch Trucker for that one incredible scene that just blew me away? No, unlikely.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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