Making the Grades
At fifteen, Beverly D'Onofrio (Drew Barrymore) announces her unplanned pregnancy. Full of dreams for his bright young daughter, Bev's father (James Wood) is both crushed and embarrassed by the news. Pasting on smiles, he and his wife (Lorraine Bracco) endure the social nightmare of their daughter's marriage to Ray Hasak (Steve Zahn), a local high school drop out. Coming from a fractured home, Ray's intentions are good, but he lacks the maturity, education, and skills to support a family.
Trading junior proms and high school grad for labor pains and dead end jobs, Bev takes on the adult responsibilities of parenthood and marriage with mixed success--before she can even drive a car. Her hopes for a college degree and a writing career begin to fade like the outdated paint on the walls of their rundown bungalow. Between toddler tantrums, the young mother tries to finish her high school diploma and apply for a college scholarship, but her husband's alcoholic binges leave her to deal with her problems without much help. It isn't until Ray's illegal drug habit infringes on her goals that Bev finally takes control of her own future.
Based on a true story, Director Penny Marshall uses flashbacks to paint the haunting picture of one girl's unintended detour in life, and the heavy price she pays for her choices. For older teens, this film is a startling bit of reality from an industry that often flaunts teenage sexuality without numerating the consequences--not only for the individual, but also for their families. The movie also tackles the dark, spiraling world of illegal drug use, the horrific pain of coming clean, and the countless victims left in the wake.
Though not always likeable, Bev is a strong-willed character bent on moving out of her hometown and on with her life. Families comfortable with discussing the heavy content of this movie may find her struggle with self-inflicted roadblocks and the blurry lines defining her role as mother or child, to be a ramp for examining choices, even seemingly small ones like riding in cars with boys.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Riding In Cars With Boys.
After discovering she is pregnant, Bev makes plans that don’t include marriage. Why does she change her mind? Despite his upbringing, what are Ray’s redeeming qualities?
Bev accuses her son Jason of messing up her life on several occasions. How did her words effect Jason’s perception of himself? How did it color the way Bev looked at her own life? In the end, what does Bev mean when she says Jason saved her?
Bev says, “One day can make your life. One day can ruin your life. All life is, is four or five big days that change everything.” What were the big days in Bev’s life? How much personal responsibility does Bev have for what happened on those life-changing days? Have you experienced any big days in your life?