Throwback Thursday examines films from the past—“classic” films that might not be in the current cultural zeitgeist but can still be important in some aspect.
Taking place in a small town in Massachusetts, though the film was actually shot in the Twin Cities and Stillwater, Willie (played by Timothy Hutton) comes home to see his old friends and try to connect with his family. The film mainly focuses on the group of friends played by Matt Dillon, Noah Emmerich, and Michael Rappaport, with support from Pruitt Taylor Vince and Max Perlich and their interactions with each other and the women in their lives. The female side of the equation is held up by Lauren Holly, Martha Plimpton, Mira Sorvino, Uma Thurman, Rosie O’Donnell, and Natalie Portman, with supporting characters being Annabeth Gish and Anne Bobby.
What makes this film work is the personal conflicts between the group and themselves. The title of the film definitely plays a part and focuses on the physical nature a number of the guys primarily think about women. However by the end of the film most of them come to the realization that beauty is truly skin deep. Rosie O’Donnell nails her role as the down-to-earth member of the group; something I never thought I’d type. She has a great speech about halfway through the film telling a couple of the guys to wake up and get real.
Also a big standout is the relationship between Timothy Hutton’s Willie and Natalie Portman’s Marty. She has a crush on Willie and the dynamic in their relationship is well-done without being creepy, which is tough when Timothy Hutton is playing a 30-something with each of them having a small crush on the other. Willie is going through a midlife crisis and trying to figure out what he wants out of life. Does he want the artistic job or the paying job, a great girlfriend or something even more unattainable?
Beautiful Girls is a film about choosing to live in the past or the now. Each of the characters has to come to the realization that reality is different. The screenwriter, Scott Rosenberg, had primarily been working on action films like Con Air and Armageddon and wanted to write a movie about growing up and commitment. The director, Ted Demme, was the nephew of director Jonathan Demme and had come from TV. He got his start in film from working with Denis Leary on MTV and then transitioned to Leary’s live stand-up film and a couple of Leary’s star vehicles before he was tasked with bringing Beautiful Girls to the screen. He brings a deliberate and real style to the film.
The town and all its locations look lived-in and real-world. The camera hinges nicely on group shots to show not only the person talking, but also the reactions by other people. Demme makes it feel like you’re almost another person involved in the conversation. Hopefully if you watch the film, it sparks conversation in your friend group about relationships, commitment, and reality.
On a sad note, Demme passed away in 2002 due to a heart attack. We’ll never know what other films he could have given us. The last film he directed was Blow (Johnny Depp) in 2001, and then had a posthumous documentary about the music industry released in 2003, A Decade Under the Influence.
This film can be found on both Blu-ray and DVD. It is not currently available via Netflix, but streaming offerings change frequently, so keep an eye out. Feel free to discuss further in the comments below; just keep it respectful.
If you think there’s a film Throwback Thursday should cover in the future, please let me know in the comments.