Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Beautiful Girls, dir. Ted Demme, wr. Scott Rosenberg, st. Matt Dillon, Timothy Hutton, Rosie O'Donnell, Lauren Holly, Martha Plimpton, Natalie Portman

There's an honesty at work here, as much from Rosenberg's down-the-line script than as a byproduct of being a film made in the 90s. And what a time that was. A time when the cinematic sex and violence of the preceding two decades was being dialled down yet audiences' senses weren't yet honed to today's razor-sharp level of perception. Nowadays mature themes are still dealt with (mainly through Foreign or Independent fare rather than the latest Hollywood output) but the almost imperceptible subconscious fleeting acknowledgement of watching something challenging still registers first in our minds, after which we're happy (or not) to observe how the issue is sensitively and cerebrally dealt with (or not). Here, the side-plot of potential contemporary contention (though tellingly not at the time of release) is Hutton's 29-year-old Willie Conway musing on whether Portman's 13-year-old Marty might be a soulmate-in-waiting. Sounds hideous, yet it's dealt with through several smart and endearing scenes. Marty is unnaturally wise (perhaps so obviously so it allows us to breathe a little easier) - 'an old soul' as she puts it - and helps Willie figure out what he wants from life during his return home for a high school reunion. Elsewhere the guys and gals of Knights Ridge, Massachusetts butt heads in typical Martian vs. Venusian fashion, but it's Willie and Marty's kinship that give this film a bit of zip.