Monday, January 11, 2010

What if Woody Allen were a 12-year-old girl?

If you enjoy the neurotic shtick of Woody Allen, you might enjoy this next movie: Member of the Wedding, airing overnight at 2:30 AM ET.

The movie doesn't have Woody Allen, but instead what Allen might be like if he were a 12-year-old Southern girl. Frances, that girl, is played by a 26-year-old Julie Harris (stop laughing!). She's living in a small town somewhere in the South with her father, the family maid (Ethel Waters), and next door to her cousin (Brandon de Wilde), who is her closest friend in the movie. Frances frankly doesn't like life as it is, and is obnoxious in her "woe is me" attitude. And it's not a good obnoxious, either. Virginia Weidler may have been a fun obnoxious in The Philadelphia Story, but Frances is just irritating. She may not like her lot in life, but does she have to bellyache so much? It gets worse when her older brother returns home to get married. He's going to be able to go off and see the world, and she'd like to do the same, so at first she tries to run off with the married couple on their honeymoon and, when that doesn't work out, she runs away from home to get kissed by former child star Dickie Moore.

Ethel Waters and Brandon de Wilde both give pretty darn good performances in Member of the Wedding, but Julie Harris, in my opinion is almost unwatchable. It might be the fault of the script, but Harris' Frances is a character wholly undeserving of sympathy; in watching the movie, I consistently find myself wanting to smack the girl silly. Frances tries to put on airs of sophistication, and while this is something adolescents generally do, it comes across as phony here, as opposed to a movie like Wild Boys of the Road.

All that said, a lot of other critics think Member of the Wedding is an outstanding film. So watch for yourself and come to your own conclusions.

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