St. Petersburg Times: Weekend

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Indie flicks

By Times staff

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 13, 2001

Reality-filled summer

Our Song (R) (95 min.) -- Three girls living in Brooklyn spend the summer vacation between freshman and sophomore years dealing with pregnancy, popularity and destiny in Jim McKay's quasi-documentary. Newcomers Kerry Washington, Anna Simpson and Melissa Martinez bring fresh faces to familiar themes with loads of inner-city atmosphere.

New York Times film critic A.O. Scott deemed Our Song: "So unlike most Hollywood coming-of-age stories as to seem downright revolutionary. . . . McKay refuses to make a big deal of his characters' circumstances, or to hang message boards around their necks. He respects them too much for that.

"Our Song steers clear of the condescension and sentimentality that color most contemporary cinematic portrayals of female adolescence. Even more remarkable, it avoids the sensationalism and ideological point scoring that dominate most discussions of race, urban poverty and teenage pregnancy."

Opens Friday at Channelside Cinemas.

When criminals take the garden path

Greenfingers (R) (91 min.) -- Clive Owen (Croupier) plays Colin Briggs, a prison inmate who accidentally cultivates a future for himself growing flowers. Greenfingers is based on a true story of British criminals competing in London's prestigious Hampton Court Flower Show. Helen Mirren co-stars as Colin's chief supporter on the outside.

Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert wrote: "It's not that I disliked the movie. It has nothing in it to dislike -- or much to like very much. It's relentlessly pleasant and good-tempered, positive and eager to amuse, as it goes through the various obligatory stages of such stories.

"We know, for example, that the prisoners will succeed at gardening, but that there will be some kind of setback to their hopes. That the officials at the Hampton Court show will include snobs who do not want to admit prisoners. That a young man and a young woman are written into movies like this for the express purpose of falling in love. And that the story will not end on the gallows . . .

Greenfingers is amusing enough to watch and passes the time, but it's the kind of movie you're content to wait for on your friendly indie cable channel."

Opens Friday at Channelside Cinemas.

Chilling memories of Mom

Alma (Not rated, probably R) (90 min.) -- St. Petersburg resident Margie Thorpe gets another chance to share her sad, funny and chilling childhood with audiences. Alma is the kind of movie that deserves a distribution deal, but nobody's offering. Thorpe keeps plugging away with a screening here and there. Luckily for documentary fans, Alma is here again but only for one night.

The film was inspired by Thorpe's short stories about her mother, a deranged daughter of the South full of rage, contradictions, lust and perverse rationale for it all. She's a plump woman whose personal demons lash out at everyone else. Most of the time, she wavers between childish behavior and glaring eyes pledging to bash somebody's head with a hammer.

At first, Alma is merely amusing or irritating. As the film unfolds, a darker tale of sexual and mental abuse is revealed. Margie Thorpe is the victim then and now, facing the camera and her parents with tidal emotions of fear, loathing, love and longing. For every scene of Thorpe rebelling against her past, another hints that she isn't totally unlike her mother.

Thorpe's documentary earned an honorable mention on the Times list of top-10 films of 1999.

One show only, Friday at the USF Joint Use Auditorium in the Florida Marine Research building, corner of First Street S and Eighth Avenue SE in St. Petersburg. Show time is 7:30 p.m. with a reception to follow. Tickets are $7 with free admission for USF students. Call (727) 686-7457 for information.

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