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At the Movies: Keep On Truckin’ ***:

Watching the film Trucker, a tiny indie starring Michelle Monaghan and Benjamin Bratt, it occurred to me that sexism is indeed ingrained.  The roots are so deep it is probably a permanent state of mind.  In this case, a woman playing the traditional male role of the father who skips out on raising his kid.  Monaghan dives into the role, turning what little life experience she has into a portrait of a supposedly damaged woman.  Damage, though, is easy to spot and on the beautiful face of this young actress, nowhere to be seen.

It’s an interesting enough idea: young woman wants to be a trucker, a truck driver – she wears the muscle tees, has at least one requisite tatt.  She wears jeans and no makeup. She sleeps around.  She swears.  Her one secret is a doozy – she has a son she never sees.  She has chosen the life of the road rather than the one of a mom.  The problem is, though, and it may indeed turn out to be a sexist notion, it is easier to relate to a rambling man than a cold or neglectful mother. 

After Monaghan’s son’s father is stricken with cancer, the boy is brought to his truck-drivin’ mom.  As if it wasn’t enough that she abandoned him, she also feels it necessary to put up a wall of uncaring, just to make sure the kid gets it where he lives.  At this moment, we’re fairly sure where this film is going — that makes it somewhat easier to endure the scenes of mom resisting affections of boy.

In the film Paper Moon a wayward father is given his scrappy, orphaned daughter and the two eventually forge a relationship.   The trick here, though, was that the father added another layer onto his performance – maybe he didn’t want to be nice to her but he pretended to be nice which turned out, in many ways, to be worse.  It was, of course, much more interesting to watch. 

The more time that is spent on the Monaghan character the more frustrating the film is – we don’t really care that much about her.  She is not too damaged, at least on the surface, which makes her seem narcissistic.  We’re grateful that she eventually warms to the boy but it is too long coming.

All of that said, though, Trucker is an interesting movie and a worthwhile experiment on gender roles in cinema.  Monaghan easily gives the best performance of her career — and it shows she is capable of a lot more than playing the hottie girlfriend to the action star. 

Although no one is likely to notice, Benjamin Bratt does some fine acting with the small part he’s been given.  He is so good, in fact, and his relationship with the kid so comfortable and sweet, one ends up wishing the film were more about those two, with just glimpses of the wayward trucker woman.

Trucker, written and directed by James Mottern, seeks to tell a familiar story in a unfamiliar way.  That works, to a degree.  Unfortunately, there needed to be a little more there in order to make it worth our while. 

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