Beautiful Girls (1996)

The tag line on the poster read "the best date movie of the '90's" 
and, so, I was expecting YACF (Yet Another Chick Flick) for my 
Sunday matinee.  Imagine my surprise, then, upon discovering that 
BEAUTIFUL GIRLS is actually a *guys* movie.  (Yet Another Dick 
Flick?)  Beauty, and the male illusion thereof, is the subject of 
this often-funny ensemble comedy from director Ted Demme (THE REF).  
Matt Dillon, Michael Rapaport, and Max Perlich are the sad sack 
snowplow operators of Knight's Ridge, "MA", who wax poetic on the 
subjects of marriage ("the Big Fade"), models ("bottled dreams"), 
and the brotherhood of men ("never let them see the little man 
behind the curtain").  The Fourth Musketeer is Willie (Timothy 
Hutton), an old school chum who has returned on the eve of their 
10-year reunion, to ponder the future of a girlfriend Back Home.

Balancing the boys club is an appealing cast of ladies/victims, 
which includes Annabeth Gish, Martha Plimpton, and Mira Sorvino.  
Rosie O'Donnell is also on hand, as a Greek Chorus of wisdom who 
delivers a side-splitting monologue on the grim realities of "real 
women."   But, alas, even the luminous Uma Thurman-- as somebody's 
cousin-- can't compete with the charms of 14-year-old Natalie 
Portman (HEAT, THE PROFESSIONAL).  She's a scene-stealer as the 
too-smart, too-young neighbor that Hutton inevitably develops a 
crush on.  [ And thank goodness it's platonic!  I'd hate to break 
any laws by describing anything otherwise! ]

I'm not sure how women will react to this movie.  As an ensemble 
comedy, it's okay; the momentum comes and goes, as do the laughs.  
The big cast is underused, but they have their moments, such as an 
amusing barroom rendition of "Sweet Caroline" with Hutton and 
Perlich at the piano.  Most viewers will react favorably, though,  
to the faux happy endings-- there seem to be about four of them-- 
which give the appearance of resolution and are the likely reasons 
why somebody labeled this a "date movie."  Don't you be fooled-- 
the endings are just as phony as what we saw in WAITING TO EXHALE.  

Writer Scott Rosenberg makes a critical error by letting too many 
of the male characters *exhibit* the very behaviors that they (and 
the film) are attempting to reflect upon.  Pining for a high-school 
sweetheart is one thing; committing adultery is another.  Getting 
away from your girlfriend to think things over is fine; getting 
away to get drunk or get laid is something else entirely.  So, 
guys, go see BEAUTIFUL GIRLS.  Take a date, laugh in recognition, 
and continue to think that real people actually get *rewarded* for 
such behaviors.  The rest of us will be working very hard toward 
living happily ever after, in the meantime.  (Rated "R"/108 min.)
Grade: B-

Copyright 1996 by Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as Ah, Yeah, Beautiful Girls

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