Beautiful Girls (1996)

Three letters: U-M-A

This Ted Demme-helmed Gen X quarter-life crisis flick has a lot in common with both The Big Chill and Garden State, and is widely considered to be inferior to both -- which is balderdash. While both The Big Chill and Garden State are fine films, each sport ridiculous, too-tidy endings. Garden State should have ended with Zach Braff and his pals shouting into the quarry; and, as for the Chill, no woman in her right mind would let her husband bone down with one of her best friends simply to seed her latent ovaries, as Glenn Close permits Kevin Kline to do here.

Beautiful Girls ends with Timothy Hutton's struggling lounge pianist choosing his age-appropriate current mate (Annabeth Gish) over a prize thirteen-year-old juvenile filly played by Natalie Portman -- who's grown to prove that Jerry Lee Hutton made the wrong call. It's a testament to the prodigiously talented Hutton -- who hasn't done dick since this movie -- that his relationship with Portman comes off as sweet rather than R. Kelly creepy. Equally outstanding are Max Perlich as a snowplow driver content with his life as a small-town lush and Martha Plimpton as a vegetarian waitress who dumps Michael Rapaport for a divorced meat cutter. (Lone casting blemishes: Mira Sorvino and Lauren Holly, who are consistently horrible in everything they do.)

But three letters define this movie's soul, and those three letters are U-M-A. Although she appears in only three scenes, the former Mrs. Ethan Hawke epitomizes the smoldering, cosmopolitan cousin of a beer-bellied buddy that might -- just maybe -- deign to fuck Joe Average on his wittiest night with a little sour-mash lubrication. She mops the floor with every other woman in the movie, which is exactly what she's supposed to do. If there has ever been a better casting decision than Thurman in this role, Blind P's not sure what it is.

Each week the author treks to the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, where a staff member blindfolds him and escorts him to the movie shelves. After selecting a film at random, Seely checks it out and reviews it.

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