Penny Marshall directed this serio-comic story, based on the memoir by Beverly Donofrio, about a young woman who finds her life radically altered by an event from her teen years. Born in 1950, Beverly (Drew Barrymore) grew up bright and ambitious in a working-class neighborhood in Connecticut; her father (James Woods) was a tough but good-hearted cop with an understanding ear for his daughter's problems, and her mother (Lorraine Bracco) was a nervous woman eager to imagine the worst. From an early age, Beverly displays a keen intelligence and an interest in literature, and she dreams of going to college in New York and becoming a writer. However, she also develops a precocious interest in boys, and at 15 finds herself madly in love with a boy from her high school. However, an attempt to get his attention leads to an embarassing incident at a party, and Ray Hasek (Steve Zahn), a sweet but thick-headed 18-year-old, steps forward to defend her. Beverly and Ray end up making out, and after one thing leads to another, Beverly discovers she's pregnant. Telling Ray is only marginally less difficult than informing her parents, and at 16, Beverly is a wife and mother. Against the odds, Beverly is determined to still finish high school and go on to college, but that goal becomes more difficult with time, especially after Beverly's marriage begins to fall apart; while Ray tries to do the right thing, he has trouble holding a job, and circumstances become all the more difficult when Beverly learns her husband is addicted to heroin. Riding in Cars With Boys also stars Brittany Murphy as Beverly's best friend Fay; Beverly's son Jason is played, at various points in his life, by Adam Garcia (age 20), Logan Lerman (age eight), Cody Arens (age six), and Logan Arens (age three).
by Mark Deming synopsis