New In Town
Posted on May 26, 2009 at 8:00 am
Despite the title, there is nothing at all new about this romantic comedy, but it manages to endear itself anyway.
RenÃ©e Zellweger plays uptight and ambitious Lucy Hill, an ambitious, stiletto heel-wearing executive based in Miami who thinks she can get a promotion by taking on a new assignment to oversee the retrofitting and downsizing of a manufacturing plant in Minnesota. As she discovers over and over, she is clearer on the theory than the reality, starting with concepts like “cold” and “snow.” And “factory” and “downsizing.” Casual decisions about eliminating jobs are a lot easier when looking at budgets and bar charts, not people.
The people Lucy meets in the small town of New Ulm are straight from the Ma and Pa Kettle school of movie country folk: cute, quirky, corny, colorful, and sometimes cantankerous. They are given to expressions like “Oh, cry in my cheese-beer soup!” And of course there is the handsome single dad (Harry Connick, Jr. as Ted) with whom Lucy will have to get off on the wrong (stiletto-clad) foot before discovering an unexpected (only to her) connection.
What works here is the easy chemistry between the two leads (despite the distraction of whatever Zellweger has done to her face). While it may seem at first as though the film is making fun of the locals, it is Lucy who takes most of the literal and metaphoric pratfalls. The film shows an unusual level of respect in a mainstream film for the New Ulmers’ religious faith, sense of community, generosity, and resilience. Both sides have to adjust their assumptions and discard their prejudices, but making Lucy’s journey the steeper climb gives the story some added sweetness. There may be nothing new here, but like one character’s favorite recipe, sometimes bland can still be tasty.