by Greg Muskewitz
Patricia Arquette has long been a favorite actress of mine, and any chance I get to see one of her past films, it is always something to look forward to. One that I have long been anticiapting, but have been unable to locate on video was the TV movie, Wildflower. In this film, which was directed by Diane Keaton, Arquette plays a young girl who is afflicted by a hearing impairment and epilepsy. Her father keeps her locked up in a shed, and beats her and her mother.When a local girl (the at-the-time unknown Reese Witherspoon) sees what is going on, and that Alice (Arquette) is a really nice girl if anyone would take the time to care, she gets her brother to help. They want to teach her how to write and read, and it is clear through her interest in poetry that she wants to learn. As she gets cleaned up and exhibits what she has learned, the brother becomes attracted to her, and begins to half-heartedly pursue it.
"Patricia Arquette does not, even slightly, disappoint. Only excites!"
The first hour of the film is really compelling. It's a period piece, presumably set in the 1950s, and through Witherspoon's naive eyes, almost in a Scout/To Kill a Mockingbird way, we immediately become affected and interested in her desire to help out. It is presented in an other-worldly fashion, sort of like a fable, and it is quite potent and inspiring. The budding romance is searing and ardent. Arquette, who won an award for this, is extremely convincing and touching. I have seen quite a ways back into her career, with stuff as early as A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors or A Prayer for the Rollerboys, and all the way up to the current contributions of Little Nicky or Goodbye, Lover. Arquette is one of the most talented actresses working in film today, and although she make occasionally take a few misdirections (like Little Nicky), there are so many more (Lost Highway, The High-Lo Country, Nightwatch) that display her skill and diversity as an actress. Between the beatings and how dirty she's left, Arquette looks like she did in Beyond Rangoon. Although older in that, Arquette, who is a very short actress (Witherspoon as a pre-pubescent is just as tall; I am at least a whole head-and-a-half taller than her) is so petite yet still so natured. At this time, she still had her thick little ankles, but even though she has since lost it, Arquette has still kept her youthful pulchritude.
Unfortunately, Wildflower's plot of the "love that cannot be," becomes routine and pedestrian (though I cannot say that the exploration with Alice's handicaps is pedestrian at all), it is still intriguing enough to stick with and enjoy. All of the performances are good, not of much mention, but both Arquette and Witherspoon brightly shine. It was a great treat to find this early Arquette, and equally as much of a treat to see this early Witherspoon. So cute, so young, and also so beautifully shot. It's above average for many TV movies, current and past. A mature direction by Keaton. Now I just need to keep my eyes out for Inside Monkey Zetterland.Final Verdict: B+.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=4828&reviewer=172
originally posted: 01/06/01 06:08:27