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It is very rare to encounter a film so devoted to character and this is the
greatest strength of Beautiful Girls. Each character has their own personal
turmoil and lightness which shines through in a film which from start to
finish very little movement of plot is actually achieved, but then again it
doesn't need to.
Small-town sensibilities and community spirit are intertwined with the notions of enigmatic strangers posing in an almost prophetic manner delivering advice upon the populous. Events such as brutal fighting, unashamed drunkenness and references to sex are handled as items which are not derogatory but necessary in a rites of passage kind of way. Each character develops through the film into better individuals of what they once were but not to such an extent as to impose sickly sweet values on the audience.
Every character is natural and rounded despite some major personality flaws. Timothy Hutton's excellent Willy is at odds with himself over the next stage of growing up, Rappaport plays the goofy yet loveable fool for love, Dillon the lost soul and Emmerich the doting yet somewhat incapable father. But it is in the Beautiful Women themselves where the real essence of the film lies. Uma Thurman is every blonde inch the mysterious and elegant Andera crossing paths with everyone and influencing their lives for the better. Rosie O'Donnell as the brash 'matron' of the group is the perfect foil for Sorvino's insecure personality. The ace of the bunch however is a mesmerising Natalie Portman who even despite being the cast's youngest member is compelling to the point that you can understand Willy's fascination with her character Marty.
For anyone wishing for comfort on a cold winter afternoon there are very few films with such a strong heart, Demme excels himself by never laying on the sentimentality rather poking gingerly at our own innermost feelings, and coming out with a winner.
Easily one of the most overlooked movies considering how good it is.
There are several ensemble movies out there, but this movie is
definitely one of the best ones.
The key word in ensemble cast is obviously "cast". And this movie has a stellar cast. Timothy Hutton, as Willy, is perfectly cast. Yes, this is an ensemble movie, but it sort of hovers around his character and he carries the movie so well. And to play off him, Natalie Portman is tremendous in this movie. Despite being the youngest cast member, she outacts most of the adults in this movie. Her chemistry with Timothy Hutton is amazing.
The other cast members, including Rosie O'Donnell, Michael Rappaport, Uma Thurman, and Matt Dillon are also really good in their respective roles. Rosie O'Donnell delivers a hilarious monologue about the differences between men and women and it should not be missed.
The story is relatively simple... a man going back home to attend his 10 year reunion. But because of the complex characters and their various storys, it becomes much more than just a high school reunion. Its a story about a man finding himself. Its a story about a young girl getting a taste of what love might be, despite it being in an unlikely person. Its a story of a man who has to grow up and let go of the long gone high school glory years. Its a story about relationships, between friends, family and couples. All these tales are interwoven into a heartwarming story.
This movie ranks as one of my all time favorite movies.
My friends accuse me (rather accurately) for being a sap - for liking this 90's chic flick. But they are wrong about this movie. This movie is entertaining and sometimes fluffy, but more importantly it is real and timely. Amongst all the hype of the X-Gen, this movie boiled down our mood (all us kids who are still growing up) in a small town setting where the people were real (except for Rosie, she should have ended up on the editing room floor). The slight plot is less important than the setting and the circumstances. Winter in small town Massachusetts, on the frozen lakes, and the plowed roads and small taverns - on the edge of early mid-life adulthood for yet another lost generation...the movie leaves you with a cold warm snow feeling of hope and sorrow for people in transition, that usually only a classic novel (like those by F. Scott or Hemingway)can give you.
Update 7/1/11 I still love this movie!! I have to watch it at least
once a year and I can't say that about too many movies (I've now seen
this more than Star Wars IV). Please allow yourself time to kick back
and enjoy a very believable story of Anywhere USA Americana. Below is
my original review from many years ago. Thanks
I love this movie. Too bad Demme is Donne because this is great work. Every single role is believable and not over-acted. Maybe it's my 30 something (now 40 something) mind working but this is a great movie to sit down and enjoy. Nothing blows up and I can't recall a single car chase but if you can allow yourself to get involved with a storyline, this is for you.
You can fall in love with Natalie Portman and I don't know that I've ever seen Rapaport in a better role. There isn't anyone more anti Rosie Odonell than me, but even her role is great. The bad news for friends and family is that I've stolen many lines from this flick because I'm not original enough to come up with my own stuff.
"What's he all creased about"
I would be first in line to purchase a (another) DVD that is Dolby Digital and has some extras. Lastly, don't miss the soundtrack, there is a great blend of feel good music along with some new, cool licks.
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. 8/10.
Having gone to my local video shop, wanting to rent either Gladiator or a
big-budget blockbuster type film for my 'Girls Night In', I came across
in the Bargain Bin for only £2.99(about $5). I figured either the tape
run down (with it being ex-rental) or the film was crap and nobody ever
rented it. However, the prospect of Matt Dillion and Timothy Hutton in
same film made me buy it (although my girlfriends were
So after a marathon evening of Gladiator followed by Being John Malkovich, I popped this in the Video and was enthralled! The acting was great and the story relevant to real-life. Everybody goes through these problems, after all. The chemistry between Willie (Timothy Hutton) and Marty (the wonderful Natalie Portman) was brilliant - even though the subject is considered taboo.
Matt Dillion's little triangle with Mira Sorvino and Lauren Holly is an entertaining sideline and Michael Rapaport provides the comic relief as we watch his crumbling relationship with Martha Plimpton. Rosie O'Donnell is also hilarious as the down-to-earth ready-to-break-your-balls-if-you-step-out-of-line type who is happy to rip the rose coloured glasses from your face whenever she feels its necessary.
There is a real sense of friendship between this all-star cast and that really the defining factor in this film. However, the real stars are Hutton and Portman who are simply brilliant. She has perfected the little vixen role in Leon (aka The Professional) and although the characters of Mathilda and Marty are completely different, there is that little inkling of a girl wanting to be loved by a man in her performance. Hutton handles his role with care - and his Winnie-The-Pooh speech is simply heartbreaking!
This movie, made up of a dozen or so rising young stars (at the time anyway) is truly a classic. Lots of witty comedy, little bit of love, some twisted moments, everything you'd want out of a movie. It's neither a guy or a chick flick...kind of a mixture of both. Timothy Hutton was absolutely brilliant. Rosie O'Donell, though I despise her at times, has a brilliant feminist scene in which she puts Hutton and Dillon in their place. Uma Thurman, though a fairly limited role in the movie, is a stunning character, and her role ties the movie completely together, bridging the gap between the feminists and the vulgar men in the movie. A young Natalie Portman gets her career off to a great start as a very cute, very sophisticated 13 year old, who's witty charm is the icing on the cake. This movie is clearly in my top 10 all time...and is a must see!
(Maybe you should read this after watching the movie. I don't know if
reading it before will spoil it for you--I doubt it, in fact, but you never
Being the typical unmarried man, I rented "Beautiful Girls" because of its attractive title. I had no idea it could be so moving or endearing. I may be just getting soft, but it was one of the few films I have thought about for more than 72 hours after I saw it.
Aside from all the sexual content, swearing, etc., the dialogue between Marty (the now beautiful Natalie Portman) and Willie (my favorite actor, Timothy Hutton) is nothing short of astounding. Willie is enchanted and attracted to this little 13-year old girl next door. As they exchange more and more conversation, he realizes her great potential and even dreams about how he might just be able to wait ten years and maybe marry her.
The scene in which Willie discusses his feelings with Mo, his married friend was the turning point of the story. Willie realizes that, even if she had a love-at-first-sight crush on him, she would drift away as she matures; she would find someone closer to her own age, and Willie would become just some silly old man she met when she was young and had a ridiculous, immature attraction to. He realizes that by just being her friend, he will be able to keep her in a much more real way than if he tries to wait for her to be his lover.
But the one scene I will remember forever, the most perfect scene in the entire movie, in which the dialogue seemed neither forced nor over-elongated, was the scene in the ice-skating rink with Marty and Willie. Marty tells Willie all the things he would have liked to hear before his talk with Mo. She would marry him after they waited five years, etc. The association Willie makes with Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robins is so beautiful it almost made me cry. (Not really, but you get the point). He gives her a good taste of reality, and she seems mature enough to understand.
In a later scene, Willie tells Marty that he would like to continue being a friend, even a mentor to her, and he has total confidence that whatever she does will be amazing.
There are about three other stories intertwined into the movie, but the Portman-Hutton line stands out as the superior.
Overall, a wonderful movie to which they should have given a title that would attract people with the ability to be moved.
P.S. The funniest part of the entire movie is the confused look Willie and Paul exchange after Mo gives unusually-phrased threats to Steven, who beat up their friend. You have to have seen the movie to understand
Channel surfing on a snowy day last winter, stumbled on this movie with
an intriguing name: 'Beautiful Girls.' Found a terrific movie I had
somehow missed when it came out. An incredible cast, great characters,
sweet, funny, engaging, and good music to boot. I recently saved it on
Tivo, and one of its many charms is that like a book you love, you can
pick it up at any spot in the story and be engaged for 5-10-30 minutes
or an hour, put it down, and pick it up again.
I keep telling my friends to rent it, but I think they are put off by the title they expect some movie with Mira Sorvino, Uma Thurman, Natalie Portman, Lauren Holly, and Annabeth Gish to be something this movie isn't an exploitative movie about 'beautiful girls' when it is in fact a charming movie about how people move through life yet retain a sense of who they are if they can remember where they came from.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The emphasis of this movie can be placed in Kev's last words to Willy in
film, 'Stay Cool Man, Stay Cool Forever.' All of the male characters in
film with the possible exception of Moe, are trying to stay cool by
to grow up. Willy is wrestling with the idea of becoming a salesman and
giving up on his lifelong passion of music. Only if he sticks with his
will he stay cool and according to Tracy stay sexy. He is also trying to
avoid growing up by not getting too commited to Tracy. In the film he is
willing to stray not once but twice. Moe tells him his infectuation with
13 year old Marty is purely his way of refusing to grow up (not grow old
here Moe makes the definition between the two) but there is a definite
chemistry between the two. Meanwhile his grown-up infactuation with the
sublimely sexy Endera is his last attempt at a fling before he grows up
decides he wants to spend the rest of his life with Tracey. Endera talks
out of it and tells him how lucky he is to have Tracy in the same way
Endera's boyfriend is lucky to have her.
Tommy's way of staying cool is to relive his high-school days and this means his affair with his high-school girlfriend Darian has to go on in order for him to stay cool. But by the end after having it beaten out of him by Darien's husband he realises his bird-man days are at an end and it's time to settle down with Sharon.
Meanwhile Paul has to grow up he realises he has to do something with his life or he'll end up like the three old guys at the bar as he says he doesn't want to end up like them. This is why he proposes to Jan and when she refuses he knows he has to do something else. His last words to Willy nothing changes here but the seasons leads us to believe that Paul believes the only way he can truly change is to get out as Willy has done.
Meanwhile Kev is quite happy with his life and thinks that he is cool beacuse when Paul has his rant about the three old guys working and then drinking Kev thinks this will be a cool way to grow old.
So therefore Beautiful Girls is a film about men refusing to grow up and wanting to stay cool for as long as possible. While the strong female characters in this film try to get them to grow up. This is an inspirational film about the different types of middle-aged men and there on-going rriendship with each other. 9 out of 10
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