From the Pullizer Prize winning play by Paul Zindel, this is the story of Beatrice Hunsdorfer and her daughters, Ruth and Matilda. A middle-aged widowed eccentric, Beatrice is looking for ... See full summary »
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From the Pullizer Prize winning play by Paul Zindel, this is the story of Beatrice Hunsdorfer and her daughters, Ruth and Matilda. A middle-aged widowed eccentric, Beatrice is looking for her life in the classified ads while all about her is the rubble of an unkempt house. All she needs is the right opportunity, she says puffing on a cigarette. Poorly equipped to survive the vagaries of modern life, she has nonetheless always managed to muddle through. Ruth, epileptic and making her way through the rebellious phase of adolescence, seems doomed to make the same mistakes as her mother. Quiet Matilda, on the other hand, seeks refuge in her animals and her schoolwork. "Jesus, don't you hate the world, Matilda?" Beatrice asks her youngest daughter. The title of the film is also the subject of Matilda's science project at school and serves as a metaphor for the way life affects each of us differently -- how some are able to find opportunity in adversity and thrive and how some succumb when ... Written by
Mark Fleetwood <email@example.com>
Certain dialog from Paul Zindel's play remained in the script for the movie. Even though the movie was filmed in Bridgeport, Connecticut, certain references to the location of the play, which takes place in Staten Island, New York (Zindel's hometown) remain. Ruth mentions "Prince's Bay" when reading a classified ad about some property for sale, and Matilda tells her mother that a photographer is going to take pictures of the Science Fair finalists for "The Advance". Prince's Bay is a neighborhood located on the South Shore of Staten Island, and the Staten Island Advance is the local newspaper. See more »
I've got to go to school. I'm late already. I've got a science test second period.
Pshh. Science, huh? Well, you tell Mr. Goodman there's a lot of work to be done around here, so he'd better not count on you spending your days with half-life. Tell him if he wants to find out about half-life, he can come and ask me; I'm the original half-life. I've got one daughter with half a mind, the other who's half a test tube, a house half-full of rabbit crap and half a corpse. That's a half-life, all ...
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This film captures with unflinching accuracy the anguish caused to a family by a parent with a severe alcohol problem. However alcohol abuse is just one symptom displayed by this particular family unit which is struggling to survive economically disastrous times, from a severely disadvantaged position. The daughter's school science project "The Effect Of Gamma Rays On Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds" mirrors the ongoing American social experiment of economic rationalism.
Joanne Woodward's character Beatrice is not evil, though she does some of the most cruel and demeaning things imaginable to her children. I believe that it's a great credit to both the playwright and director that we are able to develop empathy for her in spite of these actions. Much of what has happened to Beatrice in life has been out of her control, and yet she struggles to support her family and she holds desperately to hope of a highly unlikely avenue of economic escape (an as yet unformulated cheesecake recipe).
This is one of the most demanding, highly impacting and yet compulsive films I've seen. It's a window to the interpersonal relationships of good people who are struggling to respond with vigour to a system that delineates winners and losers.
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