Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Beautiful Girls (1996)

Beautiful GirlsI saw this film once before but, unawares, rented it again and, even though I realized I had seen the movie previously after it started, I enjoyed even more the second time. This is quality movie-making: good production values, a good script, good acting. I even ordered a Neil Diamond album after watching the "impromtu" singing of Sweet Caroline in a fun bar scene. Ensemble acting at its best, we have Rose O'Donnell, Uma Thurman and Matt Dillon featured along witn talented others. Timothy Hutton is perhaps the most interesting character in the film as a lost soul and his 30-something character's "romance" with thirteen-year-old Marty played by Natalie Portman is truly remarkable. I don't know what federal laws I was breaking but I was in love with Marty and I secretly hoped that Hutton's character returned to get her when she turned eighteen. What an amazing adult woman in a thirteen-year-old's body! They had a fascinating and strange relationship. Uma Thurman is good as the unavailable spirit who visits and then disappears. Her line about looking for a man who can say (and supposedly mean) just four words ("Good night, sweet girl") was memorable. Rosie O'Donnell's rant about men and their attraction for the false and superficial beauty of media images of women was hilarious and almost show-stopping. Lots to like here.

A terrific ensemble cast brings this film to life, which focuses on the difficulties some face in making that final, "mental" leap from adolescence to adulthood, and spend way too many years trying to sort it all out. As one of the characters so tellingly puts it at one point, "I'm not anywhere close to being the man I thought I'd be--" and the denial, that failure to accept the fact that time stands still for no man, and the inability to choose which path to take when you hit that inevitable fork in the road, forms the basis for director Ted Demme's examination of how human nature affects the process of maturating, in "Beautiful Girls," a drama featuring Timothy Hutton, Matt Dillon and a young Natalie Portman.

Willie Conway (Hutton) is back home in the Midwest for his high school reunion, but more than that, to try and make some decisions about his future. He finds that nothing much has changed-the town, or his old friends, most of whom seem to be exerting more time and energy attempting to cling to what was, rather than moving on with their lives. Tommy Rowland (Dillon), for instance, the high school "hero," as it were, now drives a snowplow; for all intents and purposes, his life "peaked" in high school, and he can't seem to get past it. Then there's Paul (Michael Rapaport), who just doesn't seem to want to grow up; after a seven year relationship with Jan (Martha Plimpton), he refuses to make that final commitment-after all, "What's the rush?"

All of which does nothing to help Willie with his own dilemma; the only words of wisdom he gets from anyone, in fact, come from the precocious thirteen-year-old, Marty (Natalie Portman), who lives next door. But in a couple of days, Tracy (Annabeth Gish), the girl Willie "thinks" he wants to marry, is due to arrive from Chicago, so it's time to move beyond the crossroads; for Willie, it's decision time.

Demme delivers a story that just about everyone in the audience is going to connect with on some level, because everyone's gone through (or will go through) these kinds of things at one time or another. Who hasn't experienced, if only for a moment, that sense of either wanting to stay as they are or going back to what they were, when life was better, or at least simpler. Or more fun. Working from a screenplay by Scott Rosenberg, Demme examines the relationships between this eclectic group of individuals in a way that offers some insights into human nature that will no doubt elicit some reflection on the part of the viewer. It all points up that, no matter what it may look like on the surface, underneath it all we're not so different from one another; we all share that common bond of learning life's lessons one day at a time, albeit in our own particular way, which corresponds to who we are as individuals. And Demme succeeds in telling his story with warmth and humor; by tapping into the humanity at the heart of it all.

The story may focus on Willie, but the film is a true ensemble piece, realized as it is through the sum of it's many and varied parts. It's a talented cast of actors bringing a unique bunch of characters to life that makes this film what it is, beginning with Hutton, who anchors it with his solid portrayal of Willie, a challenging role in that Willie has to be an average guy who is unique in his own right. The same can be said of Dillon's Tommy, in whom traces of Dallas Winston from "The Outsiders" can be found; Tommy is, perhaps, just Dallas a few years later.

Mira Sorvino gives a memorable performance by creating the most sympathetic character in the film, Tommy's girlfriend, Sharon. This is the girl who was never going to be prom queen, and who up until now has lacked the self-confidence necessary to create a positive environment for herself. Lauren Holly, meanwhile, succeeds with her portrayal of Darian Smalls, the absolute opposite of Sharon, a young woman who is probably too positive for her own good and who lives the life of a perpetual prom queen, an individual who-as another character succinctly puts it-was "Mean as a snake," back in the day. Good performances that add a balanced perspective to the film.

There are two performances here that really steal the show, however. The first being that of Michael Rapaport, who as Paul so completely and convincingly captures the very essence of an average Joe with not too much on the ball, no prospects for the future to speak of, but who is, at heart, a good guy. There's humor and pathos in his portrayal, which personifies that particular state of being the film is seeking to depict. Excellent work by Rapaport, and decidedly one of the strengths of the film.

The most memorable performance of all, however, is turned in by Natalie Portman, who at fifteen is playing the thirteen-year-old Marty, the girl mature and wise beyond her years ("I'm an old soul," as she puts it), with whom Willie forms a kind of bond as she, in her own way, helps him to sort out his feelings and find his focus. Portman's performance here-some three years before she would forever become Padme Amidala-exhibits that spark and charismatic screen presence that has served her so well since, in films like "Anywhere But Here," and "Where the Heart Is." She has for some time been, and continues to be, one of the finest and most promising young actors in the business.

The cast also includes Noah Emmerich (Mo), Rosie O'Donnell (Gina), Max Perlich (Kev), Uma Thurman (Andrea), Anne Bobby (Sarah) and Pruitt Taylor Vince (Stanley), all of whom help to make "Beautiful Girls" a memorable and satisfying cinematic experience. And that's the magic of the movies.

Buy Beautiful Girls (1996) Now

The story line of this movie is set at the ten year high school reunion. Listening to the characters was like going to my own reunion. I saw myself and my buddies in these characters. What a classic this is! With an all-star cast including Timothy Hutton, Matt Dillon, Lauren Holly, rosie O'Donnell, natalie Portman, Michael Rapaport, Martha Plimpton, Uma Thurman and Mira Sorvino and a wonderfully matched soundtrack this movie is hard to top.

Will (Timothy Hutton) is trying to figure out the path his life will take, should he get married or not. But he is intrigued by the little girl next door and starts to think that his future wife may be a bit ordinary. Add to the mix Uma Thurman's out of town character that is beautiful and witty and Will is getting more muddled all the time. The local boys plow snow, drink beer and have affairs with married women, date women for nine years without proposing and raise kid with not clue how to do it. All real life things that we see everyday with ordinary people.

A movie that should not be missed, that an be watched over and over and will make you laugh and ponder the relationships that people get into.

Read Best Reviews of Beautiful Girls (1996) Here

This is one of the most fun and interesting films I've seen in recent years. Fun, yet not without its serious side. The cast is great, with Timothy Hutton, Matt Dillon, Lauren Holly, Annabeth Gish, and Uma Thurman portraying classic characters in their late twenties. Natalie Portman nearly steals the show as a precotious 13-year-old, who sets her heart on Timothy Hutton.

We all know people (friends) like these characters. They ring true to our life experience. I think all guys struggle with the issues these guys are struggling with. (Maybe its true for women and the female characters as well?)

Do you look back to your past with longing for what could have been, or forge ahead into the future with whatever it brings?

Do you cling to the wild and independent spirit of your youth, or settle down into "commited" and maturing relationships?

Throw in a bar fight, some car crashes (all excused as raging male hormones), and you have a mix that could result in disaster (movie-wise), but director Ted Demme keeps it all together, and with just the right level of finese, comes up with a film that works, and works well!

Want Beautiful Girls (1996) Discount?

Why isn't Natalie's picture on the cover instead of Rosie's? .... Too many people refuse to see this movie because of Rosie. For those, she's not in the movie that much and when she is she's really funny. However, the real reason to see this movie is for the Precocious Portman. There hasn't been a tragedy of this magnitude since Romeo and Juliet. Lines like, 'I just want something beautiful,' are so sad, and then Moe responds, 'We all do,' but unfortunately poor Moe just doesn't get it, as is the case for many men. Most of the reviews give good appreciation to Willie and Marty's relationshipso I won't dwell on what could have been perfection. One addition I think most people miss is when Willie's girl friend arrives: Based on his brother bummer and daddy downer's reactions, Willie thinks he's pretty lucky. Suddenly a solid 7.5 looks a lot better than a 0.0 that his bro and dad are stuck with. Listen to the song as the brother and dad have excited smiles saying 'she was superb' and waving bye as Willie drives away looking at her like 'this was meant to be.' The lyrics go 'It's so easy, to be stupid,' which perfectly describes what's going on. Don't settle for someone who doesn't excite you! The DVD has a great picture pretty good sound and the best reply value, so it's worth owning. I just wish they included some extras. On the back of the box is a picture of Natalie and Timothy sitting together talking. That scene is not in the movie, but it must be somewhere out there. Please include it in a special edition.

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