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  Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael Lacking Parental Guidance
Year: 1990
Director: Jim Abrahams
Stars: Winona Ryder, Jeff Daniels, Laila Robins, Thomas Wilson Brown, Joan McMurtrey, Graham Beckel, Frances Fisher, Robby Kiger, Dinah Manoff, Sachi Parker, Stephen Tobolowsky, Micole Mercurio, John Short, Robin Thomas, Valerie Landsburg, Carla Gugino
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Fifteen years ago, Roxy Carmichael left town, never to return - until now, as the place is planning a big welcome for her as she arrives from Hollywood, where she acquired a top celebrity career and is one of the biggest stars in the world. Her old haunt is thrilled that she is finally acknowledging them, and everyone in the population wants to be there to celebrate, everyone including Dinky Bossetti (Winona Ryder), who may be a misfit at school with no friends to speak of, yet she is interested to see this famous individual since she offers her hope that things can get better for her. Granted, she may have to leave the small town to do so, but some news opens up all sorts of possibilities...

Winona Ryder is a star who has seen her career endure more downs and enjoy more ups than many a famous name, but she somehow manages to bounce back from every setback, often more apparently by accident than design. When she agreed to take one of the main adult roles in the TV show Stranger Things, it was mostly regarded as a tribute to the nineteen-eighties when it was set, although while she certainly became well-known in that decade, it was the nineties that was actually her heyday. That was despite beginning the era with this little item, a resounding flop from the then-floundering, one-time television behemoth ITC, making this technically British.

Although most of the talent in front of the camera was American, and it had an American screenwriter, Karen Leigh Hopkins, who penned a fair few films that back in an earlier time would have been termed "women's pictures", but now were given the kind of derogatory term "chick flicks". Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael slotted into that description, certainly, focusing on a tormented and confused teenage girl who is only happy when she's looking after her animal collection (dogs, a pig, a goat etc) and on learning her idol had a baby she gave up for adoption before she scarpered, begins to believe that she, as an adopted child, was Roxy's very abandoned baby.

You had to wait till the end of the movie to find out if this was in any way true, and if you did you may not appreciate the manner in which events unfolded as the whole story was building up to a set of circumstances it ultimately chickened out from, leaving an anti-climax rather than any emotionally satisfying conclusion. Before that we were offered mild, even gentle drama mixed with the more serious bullying and lack of understanding that has led Dinky to retreat into her shell, only emerging when there's an opportunity to behave strangely in a self-fulfilling style to make sure she remains alienated. Even though she has her eye on one boy in her class (Sean Penn looky-likey Thomas Wilson Brown), there's no way she is going to make a move on that, preferring to simultaneously get his attention and push him away by being weird with him.

By doing so, she can justify her loneliness and wallow in her misery, but it was safe to say there were plenty in that town who were only too happy to have her play their scapegoat, and there were signs this could have been a neatly observed study of human nature instead of the ho-hum melodrama we were served up. It was supposed to be humorous too, and had as a director Airplane! co-helmer Jim Abrahams, but chuckles were of the laughing on the inside variety, not guffaws. Also in the cast was Frances Fisher as Dinky's clueless adoptive mother, Jeff Daniels as Roxy's old partner, undergoing his own crisis and potentially Dinky's father, and most curiously her kindly guidance teacher Laila Robins who seems to consider designs on the girl (she was a lesbian in the first edit). This led to a scene where they undress in front of each other and compliment their breasts - we don't see said bosoms, but it's such a jarring moment that it almost knocks the whole film off course in its "what were they thinking?" inappropriateness. Other than that, you could see why something this inconsequential didn't find an audience in 1990. Music by Thomas Newman and Melissa Etheridge (who sings).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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