I felt sheepish sitting in the screening room waiting for Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. As an adult, I was in the minority; I also wasn't carrying a doll. I didn't head up to the front row when a photographer took a group photo for the Daily News.
Patrica Rozema's Early Films
As a self respecting guide to World/Independent film, however, I had a fine reason for seeing Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. For a long time, I've loved the work of the Canadian filmmaker Patrica Rozema. Her first film, in 1987, was the quirky and wonderful I've Heard The Mermaids Singing, about a scatterbrained, bike-riding secretary who gets her first job at a chic Canadian art gallery. Rozema followed it with the luminous lesbian classic Night is Falling (1995), the story of a conservative religion professor whose quiet existence is threatened when she falls in love with a performer in a traveling circus. Rozema went on to direct the acclaimed adaptation of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park in 1999, and I've been waiting for her next film ever since.
The America Doll Franchise
Joan Cusack and Stanley TucciPicturehouse Films
So even if the film is part of a franchise -- based on an enormously popular doll I'd never heard of, a doll that comes with her own series of books and made-for-television movies -- I had no choice but to see it, children in the audience be damned. I'm so glad that I did. For the record, the kids were entranced by the story and remarkably well behaved. The mother sitting next to me, however, kept exclaiming as the story unfolded.
A Film for Children and Adults
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl
is a fine film -- for children and adults. Funny and compassionate, the story is set during the Great Depression. When the Kittredge family finds themselves unable to make ends meet, they take boarders into their once fine Cincinnati home. The Oscar-nominated Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine
) gets top billing as Kit, but it is the marvelous ensemble cast that makes the film such a delight. The boarders include Jane Krakowski, as a single dance instructor, Joan Cusack as mobile librarian, Stanley Tucci as resident magician, Wallace Shawn a crotchety newspaper editor (what else?), Julia Ormand as Kit's weary mother, and many, many more appealing child actors, including Will Smith's daughter Willow Smith, who plays a boy in overalls named Countee.
Rozema also provides an informative but entertaining history lesson with Kit Kittredge, bringing us inside soup kitchens and hobo camps on the river -- a brand new world of American misfortune where once prosperous suburban mothers are reduced to selling eggs on the front lawn in order to survive. When the neighborhood is ransacked by crime and the hobos are falsely accused, it's up to Kit, aspiring reporter, and her merry band of childhood friends to solve the mystery. There's never any doubt that she will; it is, however, a genuine pleasure to see a girl save the day.
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Stanley Tucci, Glenne Headly, Jane Krakowski, Julia Ormond, Wallace Shawn, Willow Smith
Directed by: Patricia Rozema
Produced by: Marisa Yeres, Julia Roberts, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas
Release Date: July 2nd, 2008 (wide)
MPAA Rating: G