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#83. Beautiful Girls - Review

Beautiful Girls film posterI fell in love with Natalie Portman in the winter of ’96. She was a precocious teenage girl, with a childlike wonderment that matched her free flowing brown hair. If you asked her she would deny her vulnerability, but like all teenagers, she is as easily wounded as a freshly plucked rose petal. It is her defenseless naivety that binds her to the rest of cast in Ted Demme’s wonderful film Beautiful Girls. Men and women alike float throughout their seemingly meaningless existence with a strict obsession with ego, and the understandable inability to deny it, that most early 30-somethings must contend.

The set-up is not unique. Old friends come together after years apart to attend their high school reunion. What is unique is the attention to motive and the film’s thoughtful examination of sincere love. There are no scenes of shallow characters explaining what went wrong in their lives in the years following high school graduation, but instead old mates bond and attempt to comprehend their present predicaments. One guy, Willie Conway (Timothy Hutton) is a struggling musician who desperately attempts to define real love; another guy is Tommy “Birdman” Rowlan (Matt Dillon), an ex-high school superstar who must come to terms with his mediocre reality and fully dedicate himself to his wife Sharon (Mira Sorvino). Sex and sexuality are absolutely befuddling, and responsibility and commitment scares the shit out of them. They are human. With so much love to give and so easily blinded by that love it is a joy to watch the men in Beautiful Girls navigate their existence.

Natalie Portman in Beautiful GirlsThe dialogue is so witty and comes so fast that it has the unavoidable feeling of being scripted. Not quite natural, the screenwriter obviously had something important to say, willing to sacrifice believability for theme. But it in no way hinders the film. Demme does a successful job contending with the occasionally superficial script to achieve sublime cinema. I adore this film, it inspired a personal love for character study that has motivated my tastes for the last 15-years. Beautiful Girls is on Netflix Instant Streaming right now and I urge you to give it a chance.

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