Comedy, Drama, Romance

Beautiful Girls (1996)

Comments Off on Beautiful Girls (1996) 14 August 2013


Studio: Echo Bridge Entertainment / Miramax

Theatrical Release: February 9, 1996

Blu Ray Release: March 26, 2013

Director: Ted Demme


Review by James Klein

Beautiful Girls, directed by the late Ted Demme, is a blend of comedy, romance and drama set in the dead of winter in a small Massachusetts town. Willie Conway (Timothy Hutton) is a struggling New York City pianist who has come back to his small hometown to attend his high school reunion. Willie’s friends consist of a popular high school jock turned plow operator (Matt Dillon) and his dim-witted friend (Michael Rapaport), a business owner (Pruitt Taylor Vince), and happily married husband and proud father (Noah Emmerich). As Willie is trying to come to grips about growing older and what life should be like or what he had hoped it would be like, he sees his friends dealing with the same situations and struggles. All of the friends also have a male macho mentality of what the perfect woman should be like when the women that they are currently with are just as good or even better as their “perfect woman”.

With an all-star cast including Lauren Holly, Natalie Portman, Mira Sorvino, Uma Thurman, Rosie O’Donnell, Martha Plimpton, and David Arquette, as well as the talented Demme behind the camera (some of his tracking shots are really neat to watch) it’s hard not to find something to like about Beautiful Girls. Almost all of the performances (sorry, but Rosie O’Donnell is like nails on a chalkboard to me) are first rate and very believable. I have always been a huge fan of Timothy Hutton since the early 80’s with films like Ordinary People and Taps. He has always seemed like a natural actor, he could give a better performance with just his facial expressions than some actors do with their numerous lines of dialog. I especially love his tender scenes with Natalie Portman as the 13 year old girl next door who causes Willie to fall for her. But in no way is it ever sexual, it’s the fact that she makes him feel young again, shaking off the fear of getting older and growing up. I almost wish the entire film focused on these two as these were the moments I found most interesting and believable. Whenever the film shifted focus on other characters, while I enjoyed what was happening with the story, I found myself not as emotionally drawn into the film as when I did with Willie and his 13 year old neighbor were on the screen.

Unlike the overly silly American Pie films which tries too hard in giving one a nostalgic feel with characters that are more like caricatures, Beautiful Girls is never like that. In fact, the film reminded me of my own childhood friends. Even the use of old 70’s rock and roll songs by The Rolling Stones, Kiss, and Jethro Tull brought back a lot of memories for me. Beautiful Girls is built on nostalgia; the fear of being alone and growing old sometimes makes a person want to relive happier moments.

Echo Bridge’s blu ray may not be perfect as there are moments that I thought the picture looked soft, especially during the daylight moments with the snowy backdrop. But the colors do pop and the image is miles above the old DVD thus making it worth the upgrade. I did find the 2.0 sound a bit hard to hear at times, like when characters are whispering but overall, there is little to complain about. The two small featurettes on the blu ray are really odd though. One is just interviews of some of the actors at the premiere talking about their idea of a “beautiful woman”. The other is a hodgepodge of music videos, interviews, and behind the scenes footage that are all edited together in a rather incoherent way.

In the spirit of Diner and The Big Chill, Beautiful Girls is both funny and sad as it takes a look at how life changes as one grows old, for better or worse.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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