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Overall Rating
3.43

Awesome: 21.43%
Worth A Look: 14.29%
Average57.14%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 7.14%

1 review, 8 user ratings


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New Waterford Girl
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by Andrew Howe

"I was born in a small town (again)"
3 stars

The plot of Allan Moyle's New Waterford Girl can be summarised as follows: 15-year-old "Moonie" (Liane Balaban) lives in New Waterford, a one-horse town which rests amidst the forbidding landscapes of Nova Scotia, Canada. It appears that her dreams of moving to the big smoke are destined to remain unfulfilled, and she gets a taste of what she’s missing when a brash, sassy daughter of a boxer from the Bronx named Lou (Tara Spencer-Nairn) moves in next door. The remaining running time chronicles the trials and tribulations of Moonie's attempts to escape her empty existence, juxtaposed with Lou's efforts to come to terms with small-town life. It's a common theme, but the issues hold sufficient universal appeal that there's always room for another entry in the genre.

The Australian band Weddings, Parties, Anything once summarised small-town life with the line "The boys concerned with football and the girls concerned with bugger-all", and it could have been the tag-line for this film. New Waterford is portrayed as a windswept, lonely hamlet, a place where there's nothing to do and all the time in the world to do it in. Given that the town's residents appear to be making ends meet there's little in the way of boredom-alleviating violence, and you get the idea that nobody could work up the energy anyway. Unprotected sex appears to be the diversion of choice, together with taking confession and staring out over the white-capped ocean. Moonie is therefore something of a novelty, since her comparative intelligence and ambition sets her apart from her peers. When her teacher (none other than Andrew McCarthy, a regular of the "Where are they now?" columns) secures her a scholarship at a New York school it appears her problems are over, but when her parents refuse her requests to attend she hatches a rather cunning plan to secure her release.

This is, for the most part, a relatively light-hearted exercise. One of the script's major conceits (Lou becoming the local enforcer for jilted women) is mildly ridiculous, but there's enough warm-hearted humour that you can forgive Tricia Fish's script this sin. However, beneath the surface there's considerable food for thought, since the humour is built on issues of infidelity, sexual awakening, forbidden love, stoic resignation and small-minded parochialism. It's a film which can be enjoyed on many levels, since it wisely eschews the sledgehammer mentality favoured by many high-budget releases.

The visuals are unremittingly grim, since Moyle loves nothing better than to frame his subjects against grey skies and windswept plains. It's so effective that you can almost feel the New Waterford chill seeping into your bones, and lends the film a rather striking appearance. It does, however, make for a somewhat depressing experience - by the time it's over you're ready to run screaming to the nearest sun-drenched beach.

Low-budget films excel at coaxing believable performances from unknown actors, and NWG is no exception. Balaban (looking for all the world like Winona Ryder) services a rather difficult role with distinction, balancing Moonie's generally unpleasant demeanour with the fragility and vulnerability of a young girl who is only now beginning to realise that her femininity is both an asset and a curse. Spencer-Nairn adequately captures Lou's street-smarts, though her character is somewhat under-developed, given that she's effectively relegated to the role of Moonie's sidekick. Andrew McCarthy appears to have improved with age, despite being allocated precious little screen time (his relationship with Moonie is given particularly short shrift, despite its obvious importance to everyone concerned), and Moonie's parents (Nicholas Campbell and Mary Walsh) are well-rounded individuals, allowing you to appreciate their concerns even as you decry their limited horizons.

All of this being said, the film is not an unqualified success. Despite a well-chosen soundtrack (Patti Smith and a host of other rockers) it is, at times, a rather lifeless concern. It's not a high-stakes affair - the worst that can happen is that Moonie will be forced to remain in New Waterford - so the success of the film rests on whether the characters can insinuate themselves into your heart. Unfortunately, they remain peculiarly distanced - you can empathise with their plight, but it's difficult to identify with them, since they rarely exhibit the warmth, compassion and human frailty which promotes viewer involvement (I would note, however, that I am not a 15 year-old girl, so if you meet that criteria you may find that it speaks to you in ways I could never comprehend). Every character is more than a little self-centred, and while Fish is to be commended for accurately depicting your average citizen of the world a few rays of light would not have gone astray.

But then it's not that kind of film, and if you take it for what it is (a little film about everyday people) you may be pleasantly surprised. It features a healthy serving of gentle humour, fine performances and surprising depth, which is more than can be said for many films with a considerably higher price tag. It's not going to change the world, but if you're looking for an agreeable diversion you could do far worse than this.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=4378&reviewer=193
originally posted: 07/07/01 18:01:18
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User Comments

1/25/11 Annie this is my favorite movie!! 5 stars
11/24/09 art ONLY FOR CANADIAN"S! 1 stars
12/05/08 Shaun Wallner Well made. 3 stars
12/18/05 jeff nelus they don't get much better 5 stars
1/19/04 boo-urns Just a typical movie 3 stars
8/23/02 christa the movie was excellent 5 stars
4/11/02 Orangeguy A very good film, well written, directing mistakes 4 stars
9/06/00 lls a cool canadian movie! shocking 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-Jan-2000

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