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‘Beautiful Girls’

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 09, 1996


Ted Demme
Matt Dillon;
Lauren Holly;
Timothy Hutton;
Rosie O'Donnell;
Natalie Portman;
Michael Rapaport;
Mira Sorvino;
Uma Thurman;
Max Perlich;
Noah Emmerich;
Annabeth Gish;
Martha Plimpton

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Compare prices for this movie Find local video stores More movie shopping Save money with NextCard Visa "Beautiful Girls" has its fair share of pretty young things, but this charming small-town gabfest is principally about beautiful boys being boys. While they are undeniably appealing at this stage—as long as you don't have to live with them—it's high time they grew up and settled down. There's just one thing standing in the way: They're guys.

Willie (Timothy Hutton), a New York piano player, opens the discussion when he returns to his home town of Knight's Ridge, Mass., for his high school reunion. He quickly reconnects with his old buddies—Tommy (Matt Dillon), Paul (Michael Rapaport), Kev (Max Perlich) and Mo (Noah Emmerich)—over Buds at another bud's bar. On the verge of turning 30, they're older than the fellows in 1982's "Diner." Otherwise, little seems to have changed in the past 14 years. The fear of commitment has left everybody but Mo, who married his high school sweetheart, frozen in time.

Tommy still yearns for the queen of the hop (Lauren Holly), although she's married now and he's been affianced to the slavishly devoted Sharon (Mira Sorvino) for years. Willie is rethinking his live-in relationship with his lover (Annabeth Gish), while Paul, a lovable pig, continues to string along his waitress girlfriend (Martha Plimpton) in hopes of hooking a super-model instead. They're so busy looking for Penthouse perfection, they don't notice the beautiful women all around them. They'd sooner give up the remote control than limit their romantic options.

The women in their lives congratulate themselves on being the superior sex, yet they're all too willing to dangle. Though they complain and commiserate over their lovers' perpetual pussyfooting, it takes a gorgeous outsider (Uma Thurman) to turn the boys into men. She pulls Venus off her pedestal, and gives her arms and the attitude of an ordinary human being. There's beauty in her truth.

But it takes the most beautiful girl of them all—Rosie O'Donnell—to finally set these boneheads straight. "You guys, as a gender, have got to get a grip," orders O'Donnell, who has some of the juiciest dialogue in writer Scott Rosenberg's refreshing and funny meditation on mating.

Ted Demme, director of "The Ref," draws warm, realistic performances from this engaging ensemble cast, which also includes 13-year-old sensation Natalie Portman. Hutton, understated but not bland for a change, gives his best performance in years. He's especially likable opposite Portman, the "heartbreaker-in-training" next door. The two characters develop a mutual crush, but it never goes anywhere inappropriate. Like the film, their relationship is tender, touching and downright delightful.

Beautiful Girls is rated R for language.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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