Michelle Monaghan tries working the “Getting ugly = Oscar success” formula to mixed results
Image Courtesy of IMPawards.com
Director: James Mottern
Notable Cast: Michelle Monaghan, Nathan Fillion, Joey Lauren Adams, Benjamin Bratt, Jimmy Bennett
One of the tricks of acting is that one can achieve stunning success as a beautiful actress by uglying up for a part. Charlize Theron put on weight and dolled down to win an Oscar for Monster. Salma Hayek uglied it up for Frida, as did Nicole Kidman in The Hours, so it’s almost a rule that if an actress can pull off any sort of mediocre performance if she gets a little dirty she can clean up when it comes to awards. Theron went from being the love interest in Reindeer Games to an A-lister almost immediately and in a similar manner Michelle Monaghan looks to go from playing second fiddle to Shia LaBeouf to a top level actress with Trucker.
Diane (Monaghan) is a long haul truck driver who manages to own her rig, a rare feat for a female driver. Driving cross country, and engaging in meaningless flings along the way, Diane embraces freedom in the same way many of her male compatriots do. She has a male best friend Runner (Nathan Fillion) with whom she shares drinks and nothing more, her own home and a lifestyle that relies on her to be dependent on no one but her own wiles and her own big rig.
When her ex-husband Leonard (Benjamin Bratt) begins to die of cancer, she’s put in charge of their son (Jimmy Bennett). What follows is a bonding between the two as years being removed, as she walked out on them when he was a child, her independent lifestyle on the road clashing with his needing to be parented. As she brings him out on the road with her, driving across the country, she finds her life changing to accommodate the one person whom she thought would suffocate her notion of freedom.
Monaghan doesn’t change up anything about her body, still looking beautiful, but it’s in getting dirty as a driver where she gets a little ugly as an actress. Diane is well meaning but inadequate in how she deals with her son. He is the type that knows the kind of things she does but isn’t old enough to really understand them. The film is the two finding a neutral turf, requisite happy ending in tow, but there isn’t anything new or original about the film to make it anything else but an attempt at critical acclaim. Monaghan is a talented actress, and Diane is a good character, but this isn’t a brilliant performance. It’s a good one and deserves acclaim, as she does venture outside of her usual roles as the love interest in action films, but not a brilliant one. She does lots of good things, including driving the rig (the film’s plentiful cinematography of her on the road is actually her driving, as she earned a CDL for the film), but it’s not significantly higher then anything she’s done already. That distinction is reserved for an unlikely source: Benjamin Bratt.
Bratt has only a handful of scenes in the film, making it more of an extended cameo then a supporting part, but he provides the film’s strongest emotional sentiment at the end. As he’s lying in a hospital bed, dying of cancer, his words to both his son and to Diane are an emotionally charged moment that the film tries to achieve throughout. It’s unexpected from Bratt, who never matched his fame from Law & Order, and it’s the sort of short performance that Oscars are made of.
Trucker is a flawed film that tries to exploit the old acting trick of going “ugly” for status and awards. It does so but not exceptionally enough to overcome its short-comings.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):
Tags: Benjamin Bratt, michelle monaghan, nathan fillion