Anywhere But Here

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Adele (Susan Sarandon), a free-spirited teacher, takes her 14 year old daughter Ann (Natalie Portman) to Los Angeles in a gold-colored Mercedes. Ann resents her mother for taking her away from everything she knows, and she misses her family and friends in Wisconsin.

Adele dreams of a more glamorous life and wider opportunities for Ann. They struggle with each other and take care of each other until Ann leaves for college. Once Ann is ready to be on her own, she can admit to herself and to Adele how much she loves her.

Adolescence begins with it an avalanche of mortifying self-awareness. All of a sudden, everything is embarrassing, especially parents, in whose eyes teens can see their past more easily than their future.

This movie does a good job of portraying that stage of life from both the teen’s and the parent’s perspectives. In the first scene, Ann is embarrassed that Adele is eating so loudly, even though they are driving through the desert with no cars anywhere in sight.

Adele’s relish for more than she can find in Wisconsin is unsettling to Anne. Adele says, “I wish someone had kidnapped me back when I was your age,” and Ann responds, “So do I!” Part of Ann wants Adele to be the magical parent who can provide everything without effort. But when she begins to accept Adele’s mistakes and vulnerability, she can begin to grow up.

Adele seems to have endless optimism, leaving for Los Angeles on the strength of “an interview and a great outfit.” She blusters her way into a mansion by pretending to be a possible buyer. She forgets to pay the electric bill but is always ready to get some ice cream. Heartbreakingly, she thinks that a one-night stand with a dentist means that her true love has arrived.

As teens and parents struggle with independence through those years, it never seems that they are both ready to let go at the same time. Ann says that what keeps her going is knowing that someday she will leave Adele. A kindly policeman tells her that “you leave her when you are ready not to come back,” and that gives Ann an ideal of herself as an independent person to reach. Then, when she and Adele return to Wisconsin for a funeral, she sees how much closer to that ideal she has become than she would have if she had stayed.

Throughout the movie, Ann and Adele do a sort of relationship minuet, stepping toward each other, and then away. Ann imitates Adele in an acting audition, and Adele sees that she appears self-deluding and foolish to her daughter. Adele often acts more like Ann’s sister or even daughter than her mother. But when she needs to be the adult, to make the sacrifices necessary to help her child, she comes through.

Parents should talk about Ann’s decision to have sex with a boy who has a crush on her, which is more a reaction to a cool reception from the father who abandoned her than a reflection of a mature and intimate relationship. When she invites him over and tells him to take off his clothes, her words are tough, even cold, but when he walks over to her she throws her arms around him and holds him as though she is desperate for human contact.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Tumbleweeds.”

Related Tags:

 

Drama Family Issues

Ever After

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Drew Barrymore plays Danielle, according to her great-great-great grand- daughter the real inspiration for the story of Cinderella. Just as in the classic fairy tale, Danielle lives with her mean step-mother and step- sisters, after the death of her beloved father. They force her to do all the work. She meets the prince, goes to the ball wearing glass slippers, and runs away before midnight. But there are some big differences. No pumpkin coach, no fairy godmother, and no bibbity-bobbity-boo. This heroine is not meekly obedient. She stays on because she wants to take care of her home and the people who work there, because it makes her feel close to her father, and because she still hopes that somehow she will find approval from the only mother she has ever known.

The step-mother, played by Anjelica Houston in her most evil “The Witches” mode, is not going to give it to her. She tells Danielle that she sees her as a pebble in her shoe. All she cares about is making sure that the prince chooses her elder daughter, Marguerite (Megan Dodd), as his bride. She is willing to lie, cheat, and steal to make it happen.

Meanwhile, the Prince (Dougray Scott) is not quite Charming. He appears arrogant, but is really just lonely and aimless. His parents want him to marry the princess of Spain, to cement a strategic alliance, but he wants to fall in love. He meets Danielle when she is in disguise as a courtier, to rescue a family servant sold by her step-mother to pay her debts, and he is very taken by Danielle’s passion and intellect.

The stepmother finds out about their relationship, and does her best to thwart it. When the prince finds out that Danielle is not really of noble birth, he is furious, at first. But it all ends happily ever after, even without a fairy godmother (though with a little help from Leonardo da Vinci).

Sumptuously filmed at medieval castles and chateaux, with gorgeous costumes, this is is a pleasure for the eye as well as the spirit. Danielle is a very modern heroine, smart, brave, honest, and able to save her prince as well as herself, if necessary. The script is clever (though wildly anachronistic in places), and while the accents come and go (and why do French characters speak with English accents, anyway?), the performances are excellent, with particularly engaging turns by Melanie Lynskey as the sympathetic younger step-sister and Judy Parfitt as the queen. It is one of the most delightful family movies of the year, maybe of all time.

Parents should note that some profanity in the theatrical release has been removed to secure a PG rating for the video, but there is still one expletive. There is some action violence, and a sad onscreen death. The plot may be a challenge to younger children, especially those expecting the story they know, so it is a good idea to prepare them, which can lead to a good discussion of different versions and points of view. Older children will enjoy Ella, Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine, a different modern retelling of the Cinderella story. And everyone should see the more traditional versions, especially the wonderful Disney cartoon and the Rogers and Hammerstein musical starring Lesley Anne Warren in the original and Brandy and Whitney Houston in the remake.

Related Tags:

 

Drama Fantasy For the Whole Family Romance

The Hurricane

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter triumphed over a brutal childhood to become a contender for the middleweight boxing championship, through pure determination. Then, wrongfully sentenced to three life terms for murders he did not commit, he used the same discipline, integrity, and ineradicable sense of dignity that served him as a fighter to survive in prison.

Denzel Washington’s dazzling portrayal as Carter makes us see the man’s courage and heart. And the astounding story of chance, loyalty, and dedication that led to his release gives us a chance to see true heroism and redemption.

Carter emerged from his first trumped up prison sentence (for running away from an abusive reformatory) determined to make his past work for him by making sure he would never return. He becomes a powerful boxer by channeling his rage into his fights: “I didn’t even speak English; I spoke hate, and those words were fists.” When his worst nightmare is realized, after a racist policeman coerces witnesses and suppresses evidence, and he is sent back to prison, he turns to that same focus to keep his core self free. He refuses to wear a prison uniform. And he refuses to accept privileges so that nothing can be taken away from him. He says, “My own freedom consisted of not wanting or needing anything of which they could provide me,” and “it is very important to transcend the places that hold us.” He makes a new goal: to “do the time,” meaning to do it his own way. If that requires cutting himself off from anything that makes him feel vulnerable, including his family and everyone else in the world outside the prison, he will. He says, “This place is not one in which humanity can survive — only steel can. Do not weaken me with your love.”

Meanwhile, a boy named Lasra Martin, living in Canada with people who took him in to provide him with an opportunity to get a better education, buys his first book for twenty-five cents. It is Carter’s book written in prison, The Sixteenth Round. Lasra writes his first letter. Carter answers.

They develop a close relationship, and Lasra introduces Carter to his Canadian friends, who become so committed to him that they move to New Jersey, vowing not to leave until he goes with them. They uncover new evidence, the lawyers develop a new theory, and finally, 20 years later, Carter is freed.

The devotion of the Canadians and the lawyers is truly heroic and very moving — the movie gently contrasts them with the celebrities who stopped by long enough to get their photographs taken, and then moved on to other causes. But, contrary to many “victims of racism saved by rightous white people” movie portrayals, the real hero of this story is Carter himself. In his first days in prison, locked in “the hole” for refusing to wear a prison uniform, we see him forging the steel that will keep his essence free, no matter how many locks are on the door. Then, in scenes that are almost unbearably moving, we see that he can still allow himself to hope and to need others. He has protected himself from dispair and bitterness in refusing to be a victim.

Families should talk about the struggles for racial equality in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and about what has and has not changed. And they should talk about the way that Carter keeps his spirit alive, in part by identifying himself with prisoners of conscience like Nelson Mandela and Emile Zola, and by writing, “a weapon more powerful than my fists can ever be.” Teens might want to read Carter’s book or the book Lazarus and Hurricane, which was the basis for the movie. They will also appreciate another dazzling performance by Washington in another tribute to an extraordinary historical figure, Malcolm X.

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Based on a true story Biography Courtroom Documentary Drama Epic/Historical Family Issues

Arlington Road

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

This is a very scary movie about a very scary subject — terrorism. Indeed, its release was delayed due to concerns about the sensitivity of the material. Jeff Bridges plays Michael Faraday, a professor who specializes in terrorism, still grieving for the loss of his wife, an FBI agent who was killed in a Ruby Ridge-style shootout. He is befriended by a new neighbor, Oliver Lang (Tim Robbins). At first, Lang’s family seems like an all-American family straight out of an “Up With People” concert, but Faraday begins to suspect that under their bright smiles and peppy friendship might be something very sinister.

Faraday’s friends think that he has become a little unhinged from his wife’s experience. But as he continues to investigate, he discovers more and more disturbing information about the Langs.

This movie will give thoughtful teens some things to think about — balancing the need for security against individual rights, the difficulty of deciding whom to trust, and the factors that lead to hate crimes. The references to acts of terrorism in the US that are so close to reality you will think you recognize them make this more thoughtful than the usual thriller. The very first image, of a boy walking in an immaculate suburb, bleeding from an accident, sets the stage for the unsettling story, and the ending is not only scary, but hauntingly so.

Related Tags:

 

Drama Horror Thriller

Fly Away Home

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Amy, a 13-year-old girl from New Zealand (Anna Paquin), wakes up in a hospital bed after an automobile accident to see her father, Tom (Jeff Daniels), whom she barely knows. Her mother was killed in the crash, and she must go back with him to his remote farm in Canada. He is an eccentric sculptor and inventor, preoccupied with his work and unsure of how to try to comfort her. Amy does not want to be comforted, and wanders silently through the marshes. When developers illegally mowing down the marsh kill a goose, Amy finds the eggs she left behind, and begins to resolve her loss by mothering the goslings. Since she is the first thing they see when they hatch, they “imprint” her, and think of her as their mother, following her everywhere, even into the shower. The local authorities insist that their wings be clipped, since without their mother they cannot learn to migrate, and will cause problems for the community when they try to fly. But Amy and her father will not allow the geese to be impaired.

Tom devises a way for Amy to play the role of “Mother Goose” in teaching the geese to migrate, by learning to fly herself, in an ultralight plane, and leading them south. With Tom’s brother (Terry Kinney) and girlfriend (Dana Delany), they plot a course to a wetland preserve that is scheduled to be developed unless geese arrive by November 1. As they work together, Amy finds a way to begin to heal her loss of her mother and her relationship with Tom.

This is a thrilling adventure, exquisitely told, by the same director and photographer who made “The Black Stallion”. Ballard has the patience to let the story tell itself, and the quiet moments are breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreakingly touching. PARENTAL NOTE: There is one profanity in the movie, demanded by the studio, who insisted that the movie must have a PG rating so that it would not scare off school-age kids. Of more concern to many parents will be Amy’s nose ring, inserted with Tom’s approval.

Related Tags:

 

Action/Adventure Drama Family Issues For all ages
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2023, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik