The year is 1962 and Ellie Potter's life has been turned upside down since the untimely passing of her mom on the day she was supposed to introduce her hero, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, at an event. Her dad, Bob (Luke Wilson, Old School), seems lost in raising his young kids, leaving Ellie to handle most of the duties as he mourns his wife. Ellie's best friend Maxine "Max the Wax" Wax (Isabelle Fuhrman, Orphan) has tried everything to pull her friend out of her funk, to no avail. Desperate, she writes to Mrs. Roosevelt in the hopes that a response will cheer Ellie up. Billy (Joel Courtney, Super 8), the girls' other friend, fakes a response to better his chances with Max and to help Ellie, but the innocent gesture sparks a cross-country trip as the girls venture to New York to meet Mrs. Roosevelt.
When Bob discovers the girls have gone missing, he and Billy set off after them on Billy's motorcycle/sidecar, complete with Max's beloved guinea pig, Little Elvis, in tow. Little do they know the girls didn't exactly stick to the right path.
Along the way, the girls meet a kind woman named Charlotte (Ione Skye) in Colorado who invites them to stay at her ranch, as she suspects they are runaways. There the girls meet Charlotte's son, hunky cowboy Bud (Patrick Schwarzenegger), but while in town, Ellie also spies Alcatraz escapee Frank Morris (Josh Lucas). Frank ends up tagging along when the girls hit the road again, and the girls take a detour to visit Max's Aunt Daisy (Jessica Alba), a former showgirl dancing in a podunk bar in Las Vegas, New Mexico, not how she imagined her life turning out. With nothing to lose, Daisy also joins the cross-country journey with dreams of stardom in New York. Along the way, each one will discover a little something about themselves, while reaching for their dreams.
I simply loved Dear Eleanor. It is heartwarming, sweet and touching, but also funny and endearing. Liana Liberato is such a great young actress, so expressive and poignant in her craft, but the rest of the cast is great as well. The only special features are two commentary tracks, one with the director, Kevin Connolly, and one with the two screenwriters, but the film doesn't need a lot of extras. Dear Eleanor is a fun trip back in time, and although it might send the wrong message of a fun road trip with a prison escapee, it's still a delightful film and I can see myself watching it several times.