Ossus Library Index Drama Movie Index


Directed by Gary Marshall (1999, Touchstone Pictures)
Starring Juliette Lewis, Kiane Keaton, Tom Skerritt, and Giovani Ribisi

A mentally challenged woman asserts her independence against an over-protective mother.



4 stars

April 21st, 2000 on Video


This was a lot of fun.  Humour, frustration, hope and disgust were all present, but humour dominated.  I wasn't sure how to place this, as a drama or comedy.  But ultimately, it is a drama, with funny moments. 

I had wanted to see this movie since it came out in theatres, but never got around to it.  I'm glad to have finally seen it. 

The movie starts off in just the right place, where Carla is being picked up from her special school by her father.  She is sad to go, and says goodbye to all the students and teachers there, but doesn't even say hello to her father.  It turns out that they put her in the school as a young girl, and the school doesn't encourage visitors.  The telling is done by flashback, and is done very well.  It is not just exposition.

Right away, we can tell that Carla is overwhelmed.  Her mother is Martha Stewart!  She needs everything to be in its place, and she knows what is best for her daughters (!), regardless of their wishes.  This explains why she was the one who decided to put Carla in the special school, halfway across the country.  Carla didn't fit in with her rich and ordered lifestyle.  Her father is understandably withdrawn, as he has to put up with an overbearing wife.  Her two sisters are so very nice to her; they are genuine friends with each other and with Carla, and they treat her like a real person. 

But it is no surprise when Carla runs away from home, and ends up back at her school.  She is being completely overwhelmed, and wants the comfort of her home for the last ten years. 

They decide to try out the things that Carla wants to do, and to see if she can handle it.  She is enrolled in a technical college, which leads to her meeting Danny, who also has a learning deficiency.  Her classes lead up to the funniest moment of the movie, when she observes a classmate make a pass on the teacher.  At home, she looks in the mirror, and tries to imitate the body language of the girl, completing it by showing a little bit of navel!  When her father walks in, she is very embarrassed. 

Ultimately, though, she gets to know Danny.  He went to a normal school, and has his own apartment.  So, of course, she wants to become even more independent.  And her parents just aren't ready for that. 

As her relationship with Danny grows, they make out awkwardly on the couch, and then they move on to sex.  She gets her own apartment, and she handles it really well.  They go to a costume party together, which is really cute. 

But Danny makes a big mistake when he drinks too much (to get brave in front of her family), and reveals to the crowd at a party that they "did it" at Thanksgiving.  She is so upset that she never wants to see him again. 

But then Danny fails his course, and his father refuses to pay for his rent anymore, so he has to go to Florida to live with his mother.  So he is off, without even getting to say goodbye to Carla.  After seeing a couple make out on the train, however, he can't face leaving her.  He hitch-hikes back to San Francisco, and barges in on Carla's sister's wedding, professing his love for her, and proposing to her. 

Against her mothers wishes, Carla starts to plan her own wedding.  And they do really well.  The sisters are bridesmaids, and are fully supportive of Carla and Danny.  But mom refuses to even acknowledge that there will be a wedding, and pouts until the last minute, when she shows up and wishes her daughter well. 

Danny, a fanatic about marching bands, gets some band-friends to march past the church as the wedding is over, providing his bride a fine and very sweet wedding gift. 

I don't know how accurately the learning deficient people were represented, but they seemed very real to me, especially in their struggles against the perceptions of society.  All of their good traits were shown, as how independent they can be when they are given a chance.  But the negative was perhaps de-emphasized too much.  Carla was shown throwing a tantrum in public (which isn't below the standard for "normal" people, admittedly), and telling the brutal truth without thinking about hurting feelings (which is also done by a lot of people, come to think of it...).  But she was able to cope with just about everything very easily. 

But this was a film about coping, and becoming independent and struggling against prejudices and over-protectiveness, and it came off very, very well.


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