Dudeman. Dude man. Dude, man. Dude-man.
I’ll never forget flying into Los Angeles International, waiting at the curb, and overhearing a guy begin a sentence with, “Dudeman.” That’s the moment I knew I was home.
James Mottern, who wrote TRUCKER, gets the California dialect. When its star, Michelle Monaghan as the titular trucker, begins a sentence with an exasperated “Dudeman,” I’m right there in the California high desert, right there with her, and she’s someone I know.
See, I’m from the pickup trucks and rifle racks part of Southern California. This film, set in that part of the state, understands the people who live there. In particular, it understands Monaghan’s character, Diane Ford, realized in a performance that leads me to reevaluate the actress as a serious force. Ford owns her own rig, owns her own home, spends far too much time doing too much heavy drinking with Nathan Fillion, a married neighbor. She’s not ready to care for her long since abandoned 11-year-old son, dropped into her lap when his father’s cancer has grown too strong for him.
I know that you think you know where this film is going: Heartwarm City. But TRUCKER’s more honest than that. Ford doesn’t blossom into a fairy princess after a few quick lumps. And her son never has been and never will be a treacly, tow-headed boy. But these people have got to figure something out, and the film takes them there without betraying them, their milieu, or itself.
TRUCKER’s an honest film, closely observed and carefully made. It had me at dudeman.