Boys on the Side [1995]

This female-bonding film takes your basic soap opera and twists it inside out. Although director Herbert Ross draws superb performances from his actresses, he occasionally wallows in that maudlin, Hollywood melodrama in which close-ups are crucial. Remember, this is the man who directed Steel Magnolias. However, Ross also does something you don't expect: he makes you fall in love with his characters. Whoopi Goldberg is a down-on-her luck singer who hopes to start over in Los Angeles. Mary-Louise Parker is the realtor whose life is going nowhere. After Goldberg answers Parker's ad in the paper for a companion to drive to LA, these two completely different women grudgingly find themselves emotionally involved. Drew Barrymore enters the picture on the first leg of the trip when Goldberg insists on visiting her. After battling with her drug-dealing boyfriend, the flighty, sexy Barrymore throws in with them. During their trek west, the women learn to take life as it lands on them while recognizing true friendship. The film is enlightened in that it accepts the complications and blurred family ties of the '90s. At the heart of the story is the realization that people can expand past expected boundaries. The movie gels in other areas as well. The all-female soundtrack is powerful and works to underscore, not overpower, certain scenes. The same can be said of the supporting cast, specifically Anita Gillette and James Remar. --Rochelle O'Gorman

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