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Beautiful Girls (1996)
Captures the imagination and heart
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.
Before I start let me get one thing straight. Comics? I hate them, they're too crass and 'Sunset Beach'-ish.Thankfully what I witnessed on the 24th of August was not a comic translation of camp superheroes dressed in Superman's leftovers. The X-men themselves defy logic, as does this film.
The plotline is far, far more potent and substantial than most so-called dramas today - a clear battle of hatred and fear shown in society today represented not as a good ol'fight between bad and evil but a complex delve into human motive.
The plot however remains light and accessible for its 12+ ( UK ) rating. The running time was short and sweet leaving the audience in anticipation of a sequel - take a note John Woo, Tom Cruise etc,..
Pivotal performances from Stewart and McKellen form the basis of the film's underbelly whilst a remarkably Russell Crowe-like Hugh Jackman is the perfect rogue hero. And on that note the real life Rogue, Storm and Cyclops are well played by the stupendously gorgeous Halle Berry and rising stars Paquin and Marsden. The villains say little and are basically Magneto's stooges but their excitable ones at that. Park, Mane and Stamos all adding to the flavour.
This film was a welcome additon to a summer of not quite blockbuster proportions given the early part of the year. However I have one warning. Bryan Singer has moulded the film into the perfect launchpad for cult-status away from the picturebook geek squadron. When the sequels come which they surely will, please,please,please keep the format and cast, crew. It is very rare that a series of films swaps key roles succesfully ( Star Wars ), most keep the linchpins ( Indiana Jones )and those that fail... well, we all remember Batman and Robin don't we comicbook fans.