by Del Harvey
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Trucker is the kind of film we would normally find Charlize Theron doing. She has a knack for finding small films with intensely powerful female roles, such as in this year’s earlier The Burning Plain, sure to be an Oscar-nomation for the talented actress. It seems she now has some competition from the very talented and beautiful Michelle Monaghan, seen before in such popular films as Mission: Impossible III, Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, and Maid Of Honor.
In Trucker, Ms. Monaghan abandons her typically sexy-cute look for that of a rough-edged truck driver. The result is something of a tom-boy look, and it suits both Ms. Monaghan and the character of Diane, the interstate truck driver looking for something… anything, in her otherwise dull existence. Diane is lonely and alone, and we are never really given an explanation for this flaw in her character, but we can understand the raw emotion bound up in those feelings. We discover that she left her husband, Leonard (Benjamin Bratt), when her boy was only a year old. We also discover early on that Leonard has cancer. Diane comes home from the bar to find Leonard’s girl-friend Jenny (Joey Lauren Adams) waiting with Diane’s estranged son, Peter (Jimmy Bennett). The film gives us few surprises from this moment forward, but that’s not the point.
Trucker looks and feels like a stand-out performance crafted for a strong female lead. Just the kind of performance to give an actress of Ms. Monaghan’s talents a nomination for Best Actress in the Golden Globes, the Screen Actor’s Guild, or even the Oscars. And she will probably not only get a nod at one of these vaunted awards fetes, she will deserve it. Like Waitress or La Vie En Rose, Trucker is a golden opportunity for an actor to make the most of their character, to make them come alive for the audience. Ms. Monaghan does that perfectly. A long-time fan, I am glad to see this actress take on a meatier role, and especially glad to see her take control of her career in such a positive way.
Additional support is provided by Nathan Fillion as a war vet who lives in the same run-down subdivision. He is also married and his step-brother is the kind of white trash we would all cross the street to avoid. Unfortunately for Diane, he decides to focus upon her friendship with Fillion’s character with the kind of single-minded blindness so often reserved for village idiots.
As her son, Peter, Jimmy Bennett gives a significant performance as the boy who has always felt abandoned by his mother. It is in this relationship that the weakest part of the script comes through, but Ms. Monaghan uses her considerable talents to rise above the minor flaws and the film is better for it.
Written and directed by James Mattern, Trucker is not without its minor flaws. But many such independent films should have so few errors to their credit. He does a fine job with his first directorial effort and weaves together a very credible slice of the contemporary American family.
Thanks to Ms. Monaghan’s performance, Trucker is one of those films which stays with you long after you have watched it, like the vistas glimpsed through the window of a vehicle moving through the American West, the sundowns and sun rises which etch their reflection into our life’s memories.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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