Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Digging to China

Timothy Hutton, 1998 (8.4*)
Rachel Evan Wood steals this, her first film as an unhappy child, Harriet, who attempts to escape her life through her imagination, seen as an outsider for her attempts to escape by digging to China or by leaving on a UFO (pre-announced by the Enquirer), for which she brings a packed suitcase to school. Harriet's father is gone, leaving her alcoholic mother (Cathy Moriarity of Raging Bull fame) a motel called Indian Village Cottages to live in and run, along with her promiscuous older sister Gwen (Mary Stuart Masterson, who shined in Some Kind of Wonderful).

One day, Ricky (Kevin Bacon), born a blue baby and disabled as a result, and his cancer-terminal mother Leah (Marian Seldes) stop for a stay in a cabin while Leah has her car repaired. She is taking Ricky to an institution which will become Ricky's home as she anticipates her impending death.

Harriet befriends Ricky against her mother and sister's wishes (they display typical bigotry against the handicapped). She and Ricky both escape their realities through each other's imaginations, often fleeing to nearby barns or treehouses, once attempting to float a lawn chair with balloons. Thus, their mutual dependence grows, in spite of the impending separation, and it's their onscreen chemistry together that makes this film.

The acting is uniformly dead-on. Evan Rachel Wood (11 here, and later star of Thirteen as the teenager from hell) is very good in her first movie role, typically selfish and short-sighted like most 10 yr olds, especially neglected ones, yet also a caring, nurturing individual, almost motherly. Bacon is very good, in perhaps his best performance; he's a real person, not a caricature like Rain Man. Grown-up Masterson is fine (and nice-looking) as the sister who has a major secret of her own. There are some poignant, touching, frightening, and innocent moments here, like most childhoods. Oscar®-winning actor Tim Hutton has done a wonderful job in his directing debut.

Evan Rachel Wood today, at 24


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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