The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
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A cautionary tale that rings true.
A cautionary tale that rings true.
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All Critics (87)
| Top Critics (36)
| Fresh (70)
| Rotten (17)
| DVD (2)
There's nothing flashy about Moncrieff's filmmaking, and there doesn't need to be: from the start, she gets the emotional details right, and the viewer feels intimately engaged with the young protagonist. It's a powerful, fresh, honest debut.
Worth watching for the coming-out party of Agnes Bruckner, a relative newcomer who shows her mettle with an extraordinary performance in this very ordinary tear-jerker.
An impressive first effort from Ms. Moncrieff, but the eternal Aristotelian in me finds it depressing to watch characters always walking around in moral quicksand.
A well-intentioned coming-of-age film anchored by two indelible performances but weakened by an overabundance of drama.
The film is strengthened by the two leading performances.
We've seen this unhappy scenario played out many times before, but seldom with a better eye for detail.
...falters because it hews too closely to the witless cant of the average guy as a potential sex criminal.
Though the story is fragile, Bruckner's superlative acting registers Meg's feelings with the dead-on accuracy of an emotional geiger counter.
Vivid performances . . . the film's warmly luminous look and the richly rendered view of a troubled but talented teen's struggles with the adult world sustain the film.
Cuts both ways: the poetry and the acting were hot, the story and the cinematography were not so hot.
I found this movie fascinating -- but not an easy one to sit through. It's seems excruciatingly real.
At the film's center Bruckner more than holds her own, beautifully capturing the anger, uncertainty and yearnings of an unhappy kid impatient for her 'real' life to begin.
Karen Moncrieff is the best American filmmaker you've never heard of. It's ridiculous that her work is so little talked about. "Blue Car," her first film, at times borders on greatness. It drifts into pretentiousness and preciousness one too many times, but for a filmmaker to get close to greatness her first time out is nothing short of amazing. (Moncrieff, I should point out, got even closer to greatness with her second film, the bizarrely under-rated "The Dead Girl," which I consider the second-best film of 2006, after Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain.")
"Blue Car" tells a delicate story of an exceptionally bright teenage girl cast adrift by a self-absorbed mother who barely notices when she's in the room. The girl retreats into herself, explores sad memories of being abandoned by her father, and ends up penning poetry that dazzles and frightens her intelligent but lonely English teacher (played beautifully by David Strathairn.)
He volunteers to coach her after school to develop her poetry even further, and so begins a journey that sometimes is too beautiful and too painful for both of them. The film gets sidetracked into a separate drama concerning the girl's younger sister, which weakens the film and makes its sadness a bit over-thick. But the journey of discovery that the girl and man go on is at times the stuff of great literature. Actress Agnes Bruckner gives a breakthrough performance as the girl, and it is beyond belief that she wasn't nominated for an Oscar. Her work is so good that I venture to say that hers is the best teenage acting performance of the decade.
"Blue Car" helps to remind us how life-changing and essential friendships between teenagers and adults can be -- but also how overwhelming and destabilizing they can be. As tough as these relationships are -- for both parties -- they are often the crucible in which new life, and new art, is born.
Incredible, powerful, and extremely sad, one only hopes that the strength that Meg (Agnes Bruckner) finds at the end is enough to carry her through. My heart broke for her. A child of divorced parents who don't get along, Meg is ignored by her father and taken for granted by her mother. Meanwhile, her sister is losing touch with reality and the mother is oblivious to the warning signs until it is too late. All of this makes Meg easily susceptible to the attentions of her AP English teacher (David Strathairn), whose intentions may have been honorable at first, but who ultimately takes advantage of her vulnerability and betrays her trust. All of this however inspires her to a new honesty in her art and forces her to take stock of her life and hopefully begin again. Ms Bruckner gave her character just enough Lolita to make the May-December thing believable. Her need to be taken seriously and for acceptance blinded her to the dishonesty of others and made her susceptible to numerous betrayals. Don't believe the marketing hype. This is no teen sexploitation film. It is a tender, well done, coming of age film about a young poet finding her voice through layers upon layers of tragedy.
Okay, so are all English teachers this, uh, disturb . . ed . . . ing? Let us hope not. Yikes! David, you are well-done creepy here, buddy. Yes, quite an unsettling performance from David Strathairn as the, uh, overly supportive English teacher. No doubt, however, that this is Bruckner's film. A very genuine emotional portrayal of a young woman struggling to cope with -- and because of -- her dysfunctional family.
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