When it comes to pure magic, it’s hard to beat Natalie Portman in Beautiful Girls — wait, include Garden State in that statement. Both of those performances were way beyond great cheekbones and amazing smile. She portrayed girls with a complexity that not only made them fascinating, but real. They had depth.
I’d like to extend the same complement here, but I’ll blame it on the director or the studio or somebody, but it felt like she phoned in the performance or simply was told “do that thing like in Beautiful Girls.” It’s a shallow, cliche character and I didn’t buy into it at all. Yes, the screen lights up when she smiles in the movie and that’s physicality. In something like Garden State when she smiles, to use a quote from the film about a song, it will change your life. How could you not fall head over heels for her in Garden State? You can’t. But here, keep moving. Drive on.
Perhaps it was simply pairing her up with Susan Sarandon. She was perfect in Dead Man Walking and just bearable in Thelma & Louise, but after a while it’s just her being the same character — an annoying one — and that’s the one in this movie. She’s a great actor but Hollywood locks actors into types and it’s almost like the movie studio said let’s put that annoying one with that cute daughter one and who cares about the script?
That begs the question “What script?”?” How many movies have there been about a mom and her teenage daughter packing it up, hitting the road and pursuing some improbable scenario. And the scenario almost always involves running off to pursue their dream — where... (drum role, please!)... Hollywood. Or, at least LA or California. Okay, movie making secret. It’s a whole lot cheaper to have them run off to Hollywood because that’s where the studios and production crews are are! It’s cheap to make a movie on the lot or around town. Jeeezzz. Does any mother/daughter getaway to pursue dreams involve someplace in Kansas or rural Georgia?
Put them in a funky car (Used Mercedes here but it could have been the TBird from Thelma as easily), then make one of them want to go and the other mad to leave, wrap it up and start the next movie with different actors but set it in LA, please.
The point is that this movie is a waste of film, talent and your time. It’s all been done way too many times before, and done better with some enthusiasm. Roger Ebert defines Sarandon’s attempt at being “sufferable.”
I would say that not only does she fail, the whole movie does. It’s insufferable with only a few non-by-the-book moments. It’s classic Hollywood pairing to grab audience with name actors and tried and true story lines and it’s sad that there are so many great stories and scripts that never get made but retreads like this do.