Beautiful Girls with Darker Shades of Grey

As part of The Guardians ‘My Favourite Film’ series, Michael Hann selected Beautiful Girls

“The pepper in Beautiful Girls is Natalie Portman, playing Marty (not for Martha, as she sadly explains,but for Martin, the dead grandfather she never met). She’s one of the unattainable girls, specifically the kooky but great girl we’re meant to fall in love with. This perfect girl, all wit and shy good looks, is 13 years old. And the cool but not too cool guy we’re meant to identify with? That’s 29-year-old Willie Conway (Timothy Hutton), the apathetically unhappy Manhattan lounge pianist drawn by his high school reunion away from his New York girlfriend back to his snowy hometown of Knight’s Ridge, where he falls in love with his next-door neighbour. Which is Marty. Really, what kind of set-up is that for a date movie?”

Read the full article here:

In fainess, I haven’t seen the film and Hanns description of it does interested me greatly – but within his post he notes how Natalie Portman had only just come off Leon when the film was made, making this the second film whereby she plays a young-teenager who is, on the one hand, seen as attractive by and older man but, crucially, she is atttracted to the older man herself.

I have watched distasteful (The Human Centipede, anyone?) films, but watching Leon forced me to consider the wider implications of a film whereby depicting this type of relationship between a likeable-lead with a child, almost bordered on unacceptable.

The fact that someone, upon watching Leon thought that it would be fine to cast her in such a role a second time strikes me as deeply worrying. Why Portman again? At her age, despite her skill as an actor, what gave the producers and casting agents the idea that audiences would be keen to see her again as the object of a peadophile’s gaze a second time? I can understand being typecast as a character-who-is-the-cheeky-best-friend or a creepy-nervous-guy but a child? as a target for older, mentally-unstable men? That strikes me as a bit odd – and it doesn’t bode well for children in the acting-game. Then again, Natalie Portman has hardly failed at the profession.

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