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"My Girl" is one of those small treasures that, on outward appearance,
seems like something it is not. Any general synopsis of the film would lead
most people (including myself) to excuse the film as a dine-a-dozen
coming-of-age drama with first kisses, raging hormones, and middle school
The truth is, "My Girl" has all of those elements (except for the latter;
the film takes place during summertime). It isn't the most original story,
and it doesn't try to be a masterpiece. Its goal is to entertain the
younger viewer and to remind the older viewer of the nostalgic days of
innocence and the heartbreaking first encounters with the loss of
Summer, 1972. Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) is a plucky 11-year-old who
spends her summer days with her best pal, Thomas J. (Macaulay Culkin, who is
far better here than anything else he's ever done). She dotes on her
father, Harry (Dan Aykroid), who works as an in-house mortician.
Subsequently, the Sultenfuss house (a grand old Victorian, naturally) is
filled with the stench of death, made only worse by Vada's grandmother (Ann
Nelson) whose only way of communicating is through her sporadic breaks into
popular songs from the 1940s. It's only natural that Vada is also a
hypochondriac who often believes she is dying.
This is, of course, the summer that Vada grows up. Signs of change first
begin when a new woman shows up. Her name is Shelly De Voto (Jamie Lee
Curtis), and she works as a makeup artist for the dead bodies. At first she
is discouraged by the fact that her clientele are deceased, but when sees
that Harry and Vada need an outlet, she gladly takes the job (`They're dead.
All they have are their looks,' she cheerfully gleams.) Vada likes Shelly,
but when she sees that Harry has developed a crush on her, she feels
threatened. She does not want Shelley to take the place of her late mother,
who died two days after Vada was born. Her only outlet is Thomas J., with
whom she rides her bike to the lake and discusses all of the Big Issues (the
meaning of life, love, death, which 70s TV family they'd live with.)
The other momentous event of the summer is Vada developing her first crush.
It isn't Thomas J. (who idolizes her), but her teacher, Mr. Bixler (Griffin
Dunne). He teaches a summer writing class at the local college, and Vada
enrolls. Besides being the youngest in the class, she is also the only one
who hasn't been taken over by 1970s psychedelia (one day, the class takes
part in a group meditation.)
The strength of "My Girl" isn't its story, but its little nuances of
innocent bliss. Vada willingly shows a group of glowing boys a dead body.
As the ride their bikes, Vada and Thomas J. sing `The Name Game'. When
writing poems `from the soul', Vada writes an ode to ice cream. The
relationship between Harry and Shelly is sweet, too. Before their first
date, Harry's womanizing brother points out that since Harry's last date, a
sexual revolution has occurred. Of course, Shelly only desires a proper and
old-fashioned gentleman, which very much complicates their first date.
Well, I loved this film. As a viewer, I try to watch for inconsistencies
in the performances and the script, but this film had none. Dan Aykroid and
Jamie Lee Curtis bring a low-key charm to their roles. Both have their
flaws, and it sometimes seems they have nothing in common. But for some
inexplicable reason, they are brought together and their encounters are
tactful, witty, and very real.
As for Anna Chlumsky, it can only be said that this young actress sets the
standard for all child performances. This is not a performance, in a
traditional manner; she eludes all cutesy standards of the traditional
child performance, and becomes a complex, multi-dimensional person with true
needs. This little girl is extremely intelligent, and when Chlumsky
delivers lines beyond her years, she doesn't do it with sarcasm or
adorability, but with the oblivious nature that 11-year-olds find themselves
in. The world may be changing around her, but she tries her hardest to
maintain her sanity and cheerfulness.
Though "My Girl" is advertised as a kid's film, and kids would probably
like it, this film is for adults. It isn't always a happy film, and there
is a major tragedy toward the end of the film. But rather than
sentimentalize, the tragedy serves as a bridge for young Vada in between the
realms of innocence and childhood and the real world of loss and sadness.
And as dark as "My Girl" may sometimes be, there is always a sense of charm
and warmth brought to the screen by the characters. This is a wonderful,
Tags for My Girl Full Movie
, Dan Aykroyd
, Jamie Lee Curtis
, Macaulay Culkin
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