We Really Like Her! is a Toronto-based monthly screening series at the Revue Cinema. It is co-programmed and hosted by Emily Gagne and Danita Steinberg and aims to celebrate and highlight women in film. Our column, coinciding with our monthly screening, will give That Shelf readers a little insight into the thought process behind our film choices — from their cultural significance to why we love them.
This month, we are bringing Penny Marshall’s Riding in Cars with Boys (2001) back to the big screen.
I have always adored Drew Barrymore. My first favourite film was E.T. the Extraterrestrial and I spent most of my youth rewatching The Wedding Singer, Never Been Kissed and Charlie’s Angels, drawn in by the effervescent yet independent quality she radiated in those films. Suffice it to say, whether she’s starring in underrated dramedies like Going the Distance and Miss You Already, or dreaming up original content through her production company Flower Films (see: her feature directorial debut Whip It! and, more recently, The Drew Barrymore Show), I will never miss a chance to watch Drew do her thing.
Barrymore is a rare pop culture figure who has not only reinvented herself multiple times, but also held our attention through all of these trials, tribulations and transitions. And yet, because we were first introduced to her as a child, we sometimes see her as more of a quirky personality than a serious creator, which I think is a terrible oversight. Riding in Cars with Boys is, to me, one of the purest showcases of Drew’s undeniable raw talent, with her playing a reluctant young mom with such genuine heart and humour you can’t help but love her even when she’s making objectively “bad” choices.
Brushed off as a “chick flick” since its release, Riding in Cars with Boys is so much more than that. Penny Marshall’s last feature film following an iconic career that included A League of Their Own and Big, it is akin to a well-loved winter coat: warm and fuzzy in parts, and sharply mature in others. You know, just like Drew.
When Penny died in 2018, Emily and I hosted a screening of A League of Their Own — arguably her most beloved film. And while we were more than happy to showcase it to a sold out audience, there was a little part of us that wanted to give her last film as a director, the underrated Riding in Cars with Boys, its rightful due. Now, five years later, we’re doing just that.
It’s always frustrating to discover that many movie fans don’t realize that female filmmakers were responsible for some of the best and biggest comedies of the ’80s and ’90s. Penny’s second feature, 1988’s Big, was the first movie directed by a woman to gross over $100 million at the box office. It was the 4th top-grossing movie of the year! Like, that’s HUGE. We love highlighting incredible accomplishments by cool broads, so whenever we get a chance to program Penny, we are simply going to do it.
Look, not all movies can be commercial (or critical) successes, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great. Like many films by and for women, Riding in Cars with Boys was unfairly panned when it came out in 2001. Based on an autobiography, it centres around the life of Beverly Donofrio, a prickly and complex woman who defies convention. It is a complicated portrayal of motherhood; one that radically suggests that your kids, while you love them, can make your life miserable.
Whether you are a classic TV freak (like me) or call A League of Their Own your comfort movie, we all grew up with Penny Marshall in front of and behind the camera. A Hollywood legend, she has left an indelible mark on pop culture; her legacy as big as her personality. Let’s put on our best, tiniest colour-tinted glasses and celebrate that.
Riding in Cars with Boys screens at Toronto’s Revue Cinema on February 22 at 7:00 pm.
Tickets are available here.
Follow We Really Like Her! on Twitter and stay tuned for a look at their March screening pick!