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Beautiful but ... too smooth
on 12 September 2009
I may have liked the film much better had I not read Monk Kidd's book first - but then again, I may have never bought it, either.
It's a visually beautiful film with a good cast, sharp period detail and a touching story. However, the director has made a strange choice to turn an intimate, a bit rough on the edges, and very honest story told by a teenage girl into a smooth and PC epic tale delivered in the third person. Lily's journey from denial to acceptance of what happened to her mother and her own role in it is central in the book, but becomes more of a pretext in the film to raise a number of IIMPORTANT AND SERIOUS SUBJECTS : racial discrimination - check, civil rights - check, feminism - check, spirituality - check, growing up - check. And, given the high stature of the enterprise, the delicious love story between Lily and Zach (a smart and utterly charming black boy she befriends at the sisters' house) that contributed greatly to the magic of the book, did not make it into the Big Themes list. There's a timid beginning of something, which is then swiftly ripped in the bud, before anything "naughty" would have a chance to happen. Worse, this non-story is wrapped up in an entirely implausible scene, in which a noble, precautiously wise and appropriately stiff Zach plants a chaste kiss on even stiffer Lily's lips and tells her, "Remember our story". Which she promises to do, with an irritatingly saintly look and a Mona Lisa smile on her face...
Please. Why on earth would two cute sexually awakened and mutually attracted 14-year-olds, admittedly free of racial prejudice, ever want to voluntarily discontinue their romance? I suppose, the director's answer is: because the political climate of the time was not yet ripe for such affairs. And that, precisely, is my problem with this film.