Something like The Big Chill meets Generation X, Beautiful Girls is one of those ensemble character movies that really defies description in terms of plot points. The ostensible main character is Willie (Timothy Hutton), who is ambivalent about girlfriend Tracy (Annabeth Gish) so heads back home to Knight's Ridge, Massachusetts to sort things out during his 10-year high school reunion. Here, he hooks up with old pals Tommy (Matt Dillon) and Paul (Michael Rapaport), each of whom is also flailing helplessly in his own romantic mess.
The "beautiful girls" in question include Sharon (Mighty Aphrodite's Mira Sorvino), Tommy's girlfriend, and Darian (Lauren Holly), Tommy's other girlfriend. Jan (Martha Plimpton) is Paul's seven-year-long lover, who's now dating the local butcher. Then there's the visiting heartbreaker Andera (Uma Thurman) and 13-year-old "heartbreaker-in-training" Marty (Natalie Portman). And don't forget a special appearance by "Elle Macpherson"...Paul's Saint Bernard.
The entanglements of the some 17 major cast members could fill pages and would spoil the film. Suffice it to say that they are mostly very funny and realistic to boot. After an awkward and confusing start, Beautiful Girls really hits hard as a comedy and a romance without becoming mushy and stilted like your average twentysomething date flick. And even more incredible is that director Ted Demme and writer Scott Rosenberg have managed to imbue every character with life and originality, something many filmmakers have trouble doing with just one or two.
The acting is all top-notch, including the big surprise of ROSIE O'DONNELL's best 10 minutes of her career, playing the local beautician. The young Portman is just fantastic, and Hutton also brings some real emotion to his role (hopefully this will revive his career).
And in case you're used to my crusty opinions and think I'm being rough, my guest insisted Beautiful Girls was one of the best films she'd ever seen. Regardless, even if we're both overestimating this picture, it's still worth a look.
Holly goes lightly.
Run time: 112 mins
In Theaters: Friday 9th February 1996
Distributed by: Miramax Films
Production compaines: Miramax Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Fresh: 36 Rotten: 10
IMDB: 7.2 / 10
Director: Ted Demme
Producer: Cary Woods
Screenwriter: Scott Rosenberg
Starring: Matt Dillon as Tommy 'Birdman' Rowland, Noah Emmerich as Michael 'Mo' Morris, Annabeth Gish as Tracy Stover, Lauren Holly as Darian Smalls, Timothy Hutton as Willie Conway, Uma Thurman as Andera, Mira Sorvino as Sharon Cassidy, Natalie Portman as Marty, Michael Rapaport as Paul Kirkwood
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