Beautiful Girls (Ted Demme, 1996)

What's it about? Harbouring a few doubts about his forthcoming marriage and future direction in life, Willie (Timothy Hutton) returns to his hometown to meet up with his old friends for a reunion. His visit acts as a catalyst for them to evaluate their lives and relationships as they contemplate the prospect of growing up and facing the realities of life. 

Is it any good? A warm, nostalgic film, with a sharply observed, funny script and featuring a host of affecting, low-key performances by a great cast. Hutton is an endearing central figure with Matt Dillon, Michael Rapaport and Noah Emmerich all lending splendid support as his flawed, but highly likeable friends, whilst the beautiful girls include Uma Thurman, Mira Sorvino and Natalie Portman amongst others. Although the men are mostly portrayed as commitment-shy, immature and irresponsible, whereas the women are sensible and long-suffering (girl)friends, the script uses this broad generalisation to highlight the different expectations that women and men may have from life and relationships, and there's an underlying sadness to the acceptance that growing up often means an inevitable drifting apart of friends. It may strike a chord with young men in particular, but there's enough wit, warmth and drama here to offer something for everyone. And if you need any further convincing, I was so impressed, I even grew my sideburns long like Willie. High praise indeed.

Anything else I should know? It also manages to pass comment on small-town life and community. Director Demme drew particular inspiration from the early scenes of The Deer Hunter, hoping to similarly capture the camaraderie of friends living in a working class town, whilst screenwriter Scott Rosenberg referenced many of his own small-town experiences in writing the script.

What does the Fonz think? Beautiful girls, beautiful film.

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