This town drama from Ted Demme centers on former classmates coming together for their 10-year reunion. Scott Rosenberg's (Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead
) script thoughtfully passes over the usual grumblings of young adults who can't believe they still live in the same snowbound town. They accept--even welcome--their blue-collar jobs, whether plowing snow or cutting hair. Willie (Timothy Hutton), the lone wanderer, returns to his listless house in a state of flux, the piano-bar circuit wearing thin as is his relationship with Tracy, a well-off attorney (Annabeth Gish). He isn't the only one with problems. Tommy (Matt Dillon) occasionally sleeps with his now-married high school sweetheart Darian (Lauren Holly) while the earnest Sharon (Mira Sorvino) is left to wait. Paul (another thickheaded role for Michael Rapaport) refuses to commit to Jan (Martha Plimpton) until it's too late. Paul is enamored with the idea of the supermodel (the title's "beautiful girls") that, he believes, can make life perfect. It's a very satisfying comedy, with some forced poignancy (Willie's description of Tracy as a "seven and a half" comes off as a death sentence). Rosie O'Donnell's dissertation on why Playboy
have ruined males' expectations is much like Meg Ryan's orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally...
: it's hilarious, even memorable, never wholly believable.
The two wild cards thrown into Beautiful Girls
give the film its kick. Uma Thurman enters as the local barkeep's (Pruitt Taylor Vince) radiant cousin. From the big city, she can flirt with the awestruck guys and still keep her head. Willie's real emotional tug is from Marty, the precocious 13-year-old neighbor. If you didn't see Natalie Portman's sophisticated work in the The Professional
, her performance here will come as a revelation. You deeply believe that Willie and Marty are connected despite their age difference. Their courtship will never come to be, but the way the two talk (and talk some more) about their lives is the most insightful part of Rosenberg's script. Everyone's so comfortable in his or her roles that you may truly feel sad when the film ends. --Doug Thomas