So I heard about this movie, Riding in Cars With Boys, starring Drew Barrymore. Despite the criticisms we heard, my sister and I felt a huge compulsion to see it. Drew plays a young woman with a bright future who finds herself pregnant. One by one, the pieces of her life fall into rubble around her, leaving her alone with a son and the hopes and dreams that she can't bring herself to abandon. She struggles through drug addiction, poverty--basically the spectrum of issues that a teenage mom might face--and somehow, at the end of it all, winds up doing okay. There's no fairy tale ending, but there is a sort of practical optimism. This story is very realistic and thoughtful. It also hit a little too close to home.

Directed by Penny Marshall, the film thankfully doesn't try play Beverly (Drew Barrymore) off as a great person. Rather, it foils her struggle with those of her son (Adam Garcia), who loves his mother desperately and yet, has to deal with his own struggles, for which she is largely to blame. At some parts, Beverly is the protagonist; at others, she is a sort of villain. The complexity of the characters is almost too much to take in at once--particularly Steve Zahn's portrayal of Ray, Beverly's drug-addicted and irresponsible husband, who takes on an almost childlike sweetness.

The film, which debuted October 2001, is 2.5 hours of empathy and emotion. So, yeah, okay... maybe it -is- a chick flick. But it's a smart one, and absolutely worth watching.