Beautiful Girls

* * 1/2*

Relationship story focusing on five guys and their quests for the ideal woman. Timothy Hutton plays Willie, a piano player and the only one of his high school buddies who escaped small town Knight's Ridge, Mass. Willie returns for his high school reunion, and fleeing commitment with his New York girlfriend. However, he returns to find his buddies all have problems of their own. Tommy (Matt Dillon), is torn between his anorexic girlfriend Sharon (Mira Sorvino), and his high-school girlfriend, now married but lusting after an affair, Darian (Lauren Holly). Paul (Michael Rappaport) is stewwing in a realm of obsession. He can't get over the fact that his girlfriend of seven years dumped him, and for some reason he can't seem to find the supermodel of his dreams. Then into the small town wanders Andera (Uma Thurman), cousin of the local bartender. She inspires the dreams, but refuses the advances, of the men in Knight's Ridge. The feminine side of things in this town is spelled out by two other characters: Marty (Natalie Portman), Willie's precocious 13-year old neighbor, and by Gina (Rosie O'Donnell), the perceptive beauty salon owner. Beautiful Girls suffers mainly from its writing. While apt at times, often it seems overwrought and muddled. The dialogue stops coming from the characters, and instead seems to flow straight from the writer himself (especially in the case of preteen Marty). The first half of the film suffers from haphazard pacing, but the last hour begins to pick up some rhythm. Surprisingly for this genre of film, the strongest characters are the men, while most of the women seem to be faintly sketched (though this does enhance their enigmatic qualities as seen from the perspective of the men). The film ends on an upbeat tone, and overall is a relative change of pace for the genre. (Miramax)

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