It's sometime in the 1970's. Fifteen year old loner Agnes Marie Pottie - nicknamed Mooney - dreams of escaping life in New Waterford, a coastal Nova Scotia town on Cape Breton Island. She has quiet contempt for most of the people around her - including her large family - who don't share her sensibilities. They, who are ruled by Catholic mores, in turn think she's unconventional and weird. She thinks she's realized her dream when, with the help of her teacher Cecil Sweeney, who himself has escaped to New Waterford to find himself (at which he has been unsuccessful so far), she has been awarded a scholarship to attend an art school in New York. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when her parents don't allow her to go. She devises a plan to get out of New Waterford, one that goes against her loner status. In the meantime, a bit of New York comes to New Waterford in the form of Lou Benzoa, who, with her dance instructor mother, has temporarily moved next door to the Pottie's to escape life... Written by
When writer Tricia Fish moved to New Waterford at age 13 with her family, her six-year-old brother ran into their kitchen one day all bloody, and happily said, "I made a friend!" She incorporated this into the movie, in an identical scene with the character of Darcy, Lou's little brother. See more »
The movie is set in the 1970's, and as the two girls (Moonie and Lou) are driving along the coast to the bonfire place, there is a visible blue Dodge Neon parked in one of the houses. Dodge Neon was introduced the mid-1990's. See more »
I wasn't really born here, you know. When I was a tiny infant, my real mother, a famous opera singer, dropped me from a silver jet as she passed over what she saw as a beautiful tropical coastline. God's country.
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Film doesn't get much better than Alan Moyle's very original "New Waterford Girl". That said, prospective viewers should understand that "New Waterford Girl" withholds much of its pleasure from the first viewing, be prepared to watch it at least three times which is not difficult because it is one of those films with unexpected depth that gets better with each viewing. Even your reaction to the cinematography will change with each viewing as the unremittingly grim visuals (subjects are often framed against gray skies and windswept beaches) which initially make you shiver become increasing beautiful.
The main character, 15 year old Moonie (Liane Balaban), is one of those freaks of genetics who occasionally spring up in unexpected places, whose comparative intelligence and ambition set them apart from family and peers. She loves her family but has simply outgrown the small Nova Scotia town of New Waterford and dreams of getting out. Once engaged and observant, she now drifts around town with her face in a book, having written off and distanced herself from everyone around her. Boys are attracted to Mooney (plausible since Balaban looks like a cross between Natalie Portman and Winona Rider) but she is focused on getting out rather than on boys. It is a dream part, as Balaban through behavior and voice-over must somehow balance Moonie's generally unpleasant demeanor and too soon maturity with the fragility and vulnerability of a young girl.
Enter new next door neighbor Lou Benzoa (Tara Spencer-Nairn) who has just moved to New Waterford from the Bronx with her mother (Cathy Moriarty). In homage to Moriarty's "Raging Bull" character, Lou's father is a jailed boxer who has taught Lou how to throw a punch. Lou is as extroverted and impulsive as Mooney is defensive and introspective. It is in the Moonie-Lou friendship that Moyle's film transcends the traditional female bonding story. Rather that fall into the trap of having the two girls immediately hit it off, Moonie is resistant. But Lou keeps trying and eventually Moonie comes around.
Lou immediately embraces the small town experience and her fresh perspective on the things that Mooney has stopped noticing begins to subtly change Mooney's feeling about her hometown. An especially beautiful scene involves Mooney joining in as her two sisters (if they look like sisters it is because they are played by actresses who are sisters-nice casting) sing a traditional song around a campfire. Mooney's internal conflict (and increasingly difficult decision) between staying or going is what the film is about but Moyle artfully soft-pedals this dynamic by packaging it around a humorous parallel story about Mooney's scheme to escape from New Waterford.
In this small Irish Catholic town the very mention of the blessed Virgin is enough to make potential sinners stop dead in their tracks. Much of the humor comes from Lou's ability to knock out boys with a sucker punch. The local girls enlist her as an agent of the blessed Virgin who can punish their two-timing boyfriends. In "Times Square" Moyne used a similar contrivance, having the two girls drop television sets from the Times Square rooftops. While both are mildly ridiculous, beneath the surface of each there is considerable food for thought as metaphors for issues raised by the films; in "New Waterford Girl" these include infidelity, sexual awakening, forbidden love, and small-minded parochialism.
"New Waterford Girl" is transcendent because of the pairing of Balaban and Spencer-Nairm. The two actresses not only hold their own with each other, they are perfect complements and Moyle skillfully uses reaction shots that allow them to enhance each other's performances.
WARNING: Although most of the technical production elements (cinematography, production design, editing) are excellent, the audio (at least on the DVD) is second rate (more accurately second to all). Many lines are a challenge to make out and several are simply unintelligible. While this does not ruin the film it definitely weakens it. The audio deficiency is compounded by the puzzling failure to provide a captioning option; someone should roast in hell for that omission. If ever a DVD needed subtitles this is the one. At least Showtime has provided subtitles in the version they are currently running. If you feel inspired you can find the script at (www.geocities.com/nwgmovie/index.html). The DVD lacks any useful special features; it has one trailer and a short (rather lame) featurette. Since there are no commentaries and the VHS version (also in widescreen) and cheaper, VHS might be the way to go.
The music is excellent, too bad no CD is available.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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