Regardless of anything else about the movie Riding In Cars With Boys, it captures the essence of being a teenager and a young adult in New England better than anything I've ever seen on film.
I grew up in New England, in Central Massachusetts, and I experienced much of what happens in this movie. I experienced what it is like to long to escape but inevitably being trapped in the same community you grew up in. The heart of the film (I have never read the book) is about just this, and it feels like the towns I used to know as "home." In high school there are those who think they are going to go on to bigger and better things. They believe they are special. This is much like anywhere else in America.
The thing is, the feel of this movie replicates growing up in New England with incredible accuracy. The seasons are just right, down to the filthy frozen streets of winter. What is usually seen as an idyllic snowscape is created to fit the reality. The icy roads are thick with sand and salt, not lovely white, fluffy snow. The drinking party is reproduced with the kind of authenticity that reminds me of too many similar parties I've been to in my lifetime. There is no romanticism to any of it. There are no heroic efforts to drink impossible amounts of booze. There is just a girl who wants to impress someone who is out of her league who ends up meeting the man who will eventually father her child in the bathroom. And that is so extremely New England that it felt like a cliche no one had bothered to explore before.
As a whole, when I first saw this movie, as part of my wife's obsession with watching Drew Barrymore films (she is frequently accused of looking exactly like Drew), the thing that stood out to me was its accurate depiction of growing up in New England. It was something I had never seen before in countless movies of similar subject matter set in New England. I found it to be so accurate that it was unnerving.
And I have nothing else to say about the film other than to again say it is an honest and accurate depiction of what it was like to grow up in New England once upon a time. It reminds me so much of my own life in the 1980s that I barely noticed the rest of the story.