Do you know D.C.?
Get our free newsletter to stay in the know about local D.C.
Adapted from a memoir by Beverly Donofrio, this is the sort of dramedy in which heavy events hit with the weight of a feather. It’s the ’60s, and working-class 15-year-old Bev (Drew Barrymore) is an aspiring writer and wild romantic who plans to escape Connecticut for the promised land, New York. When the guy she worships ridicules her in public, Bev rebounds to Ray (Steve Zahn), a well-meaning loser who soon gets her pregnant. After a doleful wedding presided over by her humiliated dad (James Woods), Bev takes a job as a waitress, earns a high-school-equivalency degree, and starts saving for college, only to learn that Ray has spent all her money on heroin. Bev kicks him out, leaving herself with only their son, Jason; her best friend, Fay (Brittany Murphy)—who got pregnant just after Bev—and Fay’s daughter, Amelia. With some 30 songs relentlessly setting the period, the movie flashes back and forward, punctuated by a trip taken by 35-year-old Fay and grown-up Jason (Adam Garcia) to see the long-absent Ray. We’re told that Bev is self-absorbed and a bad mother, and that Jason has essentially had to raise his mom. Actually, though, Bev seems pretty level-headed in a crisis. Or maybe it’s just that director Penny Marshall’s sitcom-y touch keeps any of the crises from seeming like genuine threats. (Watching your toddler son almost drown while you’re stoned should be a lot scarier than it appears here.) Morgan Upton Ward’s script is full of Oprahesque wisdom about the endurance of family ties and the inner strength of women. Those who are full up on such homilies, however, will have only one reason to see this film: Murphy’s star-making performance as Bev’s funny, faithful friend. —Mark Jenkins