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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 4/28/99

Beautiful Girls
1996 (1999) - Miramax (Buena Vista)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Beautiful Girls Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/C/F

Specs and Features

113 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, film-themed menu screens, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0 surround), subtitles: English, Close Captioned

In a small, sleepy town in upstate New York, a group of high school friends has assembled for their 10-year class reunion. Willie (Timothy Hutton), a musician, returns home for the occasion to gain some perspective - he has to decide whether or not to marry his long-time girlfriend, and if he should continue his music career or pursue a more "sensible" line of work. His old high school buddies, among them, Tommy (Matt Dillon) and Paul (Michael Rapaport) are faced with life decisions of their own. Tommy, a former jock for whom high school really WAS the best days of his life, finds himself still in love with his former girlfriend (Lauren Holly), who is now married. Unfortunately, his current girlfriend (Mira Sorvino) suffers as a result. And Paul, faced with pressure to marry his girlfriend of seven years, turned tail and ran. Now she's shacking up with a meat-cutter, and it's got him seriously "creased". You get the idea - these nearly thirty-somethings are faced with the reality of how their lives are actually turning out (as opposed to how they imagined their lives going), and it's got 'em quaking in their boots. We've all been there.

I'll confess, I really love this movie. The name on the street signs may say Knight's Ridge, New York, but Beautiful Girls was actually shot in Stillwater, Minnesota, and it's the spitting image of the town where I grew up in North Dakota. That fluffy snow, the grungy vehicles (always dirty and full of rust from the salt on the roads), hanging out at the bowling alley or the local tavern, the clothes, the look of the houses - it all brings back memories. And the characters in this film... well, it's not stretching it to say that I have friends JUST like this back home.

My personal reasons for digging Beautiful Girls aside, there are more tangible to like it as well - it's just a great movie. The performances are first-rate all around. It's good to see Timothy Hutton doing movies again - he's been missed I think. Rosie O'Donnell has some great scenes here, as she scolds the "boys" for their infatuation with so-called "perfect" women. Uma Thurman is charming as the visiting big-city cousin of one of the locals, who stirs up the mix. But it's Natalie Portman who really steals the film, as a would-be Lolita and sage (much older than her years), who has a crush on Willie (or is it the other way around?) and helps him find his perspective.

As DVDs go, this disc is wanting. The non-anamorphic widescreen picture is sometimes grainy, and at one time or other shows all of the artifacts that we've come to expect from analog source material. This is clearly not as good as the film could have looked. The sound here is Dolby Surround only - it's adequate for a dialogue-only movie, but don't expect an immersive sound environment here. And there are absolutely no extras whatsoever. Not even a trailer. What a shame. You just know that there were funny outtakes, deleted scenes, and lots nifty extras that could have been scared up if Buena Vista had had the mind to. Oh well. Still, this is a great film, full of funny moments and engaging characters. If you can find this disc on sale, it's definitely worth a look.

Bill Hunt
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