Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Movie Review - Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael

Roxy Charmicheal is coming home! proclaim banners and posters all around the sleepy village where the oddly named Dinky (played by a young Winona Ryder) lives. In fact, it seems as if the whole town is obsessed with Roxy – despite the fact that she never really did anything. Particularly obsessed is Denton Webb (Jeff Daniels), who was the lover she abandoned, along with her child. Dinky believes herself to be Roxy’s child and occasionally her claim seems to have some validity to it. Her relationship with her foster parents (well I think so – their exact relationship was – perhaps deliberately – quite unclear) is becoming ever more fraught, and her only solace seems to be that her “mother” is coming home – to take her away from her terrible life…

Complicating matters is the fact that Gerald Howells (Thomas Wilson Brown [Pearl Harbour]), a very popular local boy (oh come on, how likely is it that a someone called Gerald would be popular?!?), falls for Dinky despite the fact that she is extremely unpopular at school and… well, she smells. Added to which she has absolutely no interpersonal skills whatsoever – not with people, anyway – she’s fine with animals.

Denton starts having marital problems because of his apparently conflicting emotions over Roxy’s return – his wife suspects that she has never stopped loving the fabled absentee. His life becomes more complicated his life gets more involved with Dinky and her wannabe boyfriend, and as the day of Roxy’s homecoming the atmosphere of the whole town becomes ever more fevered and paranoid…

Welcome Home, Roxy Charmichael is a strange film. In essence I guess it can be categorised as a rites of passage movie, focusing on Dinky. The trouble is that she’s so horrible to people in general that despite her awkward upbringing and situation, it’s difficult to feel really sorry for her. Part of the problem is trying to show why others are unsympathetic, but the ones that dislike Dinky are portrayed as so dislikeable anyway that there was no need for Dinky to actually be unlovable to get the point across. (Winona Ryder acquits herself very well in an early film role.) Eventually though, her Guidance Counsellor, Elizabeth Zaks (played by Laila Robins), a teacher who does sympathise with her position, seems to eventually get on her good side and bring out a bit of the good in Dinky. Unsurprisingly, the person assigned to look into the possibility of shipping her off and away from her foster parents is a man. Oh yes, this is one of those patronisingly feminist movies where WOMEN=GOOD, MEN=BAD. (Okay there are exceptions to this – her foster father is a far more sympathetic character than his wife, for instance – but generally that motif comes across.) Denton, Jeff Daniel’s character, is consistently a nice guy but part of the plot heavily revolves around him having an extremely uncharacteristic violent outburst. I understand that the filmmakers want us to believe the pressure of the situation caused this, but I’m just not buying it – it went so completely against his character that I just couldn’t believe it. Daniels does a good job with his role generally but even he looks completely bemused by this outburst! I enjoyed Graham Beckel’s performance as Dinky’s foster-father, and seeing the local popular-at-school-spoilt-brat drama-queen get her comeuppance was very entertaining. Technically the film was a little shaky in places, but it wasn’t all that bad overall.

The pacing of the film is also a problem. It’s all a bit slow and, this being the case, there’s not really enough genuine emotion in what happens to hold it together. Maybe it’s more a woman’s film or maybe I’m just over-analysing (since the only other review of this on Epinions at time of writing claims it is the best film the reviewer has ever seen), but I just didn’t identify with the characters, nor did I really care about them. It has also got scenes in just to bump up the rating – at least, some scenes that contained potentially offensive material appeared to be completely pointless as far as the plot was concerned.

It’s not all negative, by any means. Some parts were genuinely emotional or funny (sometimes both), and the film had enough surrealism to mask much of its threadbare plot. But overall it just fails to impress, and ends up yet as another film that I’m relatively glad to have seen, but am extremely unlikely to ever watch again. I can’t really recommend it, but it wasn’t terrible.

Other Information

Directed by: Jim Abrahams (I don’t think this is really his type of film – see further down for the reason!)
Writing credits: Karen Leigh Hopkins
Runtime: 95 minutes
Certification: 15 (UK) 14 (Chile) 13 (Argentina) PG-13 (USA) 12 (Germany)


I can’t really think of any similar films to link to here, so instead I’ll give you a taste of what sort of films did impress me.

Some of my Top Ten Lists:

Top Ten Movies of 2003
The Top Ten Movies of All Time
Romantic Comedies
Science Fiction Films
Animated Movies
Top Ten Spoof Movies (Roxy Charmichael’s Director Jim Abrahams directed a several of my favourite spoof movies.)

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