Our Town Reviews
Really, the joy here is in the performances. Lots of great work on display, but the real draw is Newman as the Stage Manager. It is really quite affecting, and I found myself with tears in my eyes as I watched him work. Just the knowledge that he has left us, and that this was his last stage performance...it's quite emotional to think about.
My impression was that of a long-winded melodrama that came off as a cross between Picnic (1950 w/ William Holden) and My Dinner With Andre -both of which I liked. Worse, the premises and issues were givens.
I do realize this wasn't its purpose. but
I think this play missed a chance to be a devastating indictment of the periodic corruption, hypocrisy, small-mindedness, and maliciousness that tend to underlie so many communities. This could have been done subtly or even by use of exaggeration, say by making it just over Norman Rokwell-esque enough to make us suspicious.
Nevertheless, I guess I wanted something with more cleverness, along the lines of Main Street, USA. But I will admit it's been years since I saw it and perhaps deserves another viewing now that I'm older.
Paul Newman's work as The Stage Manager is sublime ... more powerful now than ever.
Scott Hamilton Kennedy directs this documentary about English teacher Catherine Borek and a group of students from Dominguez High School in Compton, California, and their staging of Thornton Wilder'¬?¬?s Our Town. The school hadn'¬?¬?t done a play in 20 years but Borek decided it was worth a try. So with no money and a cast of cynical and skeptical teenagers, Borek and another English teacher put on a show. Borek demonstrates a play based on a 19th-century New England town could be relevant to Compton.
So with very little if any political agenda Kennedy gives us a realistic look at the kids in the play. You get them as they are; funny, depressed, morose, smart, self-confident, angsty. These are kids who are growing up in a place many of us don√Ę¬?¬?t even want to admit exists; lousy schools, lower middle class, poverty, gang violence (you hear several gunshots in scene). But Kennedy doesn'¬?¬?t focus on the negative. He tries to tap into any hope the kids have and there is plenty. These are kids who don√Ę¬?¬?t, can√Ę¬?¬?t or won√Ę¬?¬?t fit into basketball, football and proms. They'¬?¬?re creative and want to create and this makes them a
little weird. It'¬?¬?s fun to watch them gel as an acting troupe and truly surprise themselves.
One thing missing from the film was a visit by and some talk time with the school principal or even some form of a school administrator. No one like this ever showed up. I am not sure what to make of it but it would have been nice to see supportive school officials.
Aside from themes I already mentioned, we get others like divorce, abandonment, suicide, strained or broken relationships between children and parents, prostitution, love and the search for it, acceptance and purpose.
Kennedy does a good job capturing the struggle and success of Borek and the kids who did the play. This movie will resonate with you if you like the arts, you are or were a square peg surrounded by a bunch of round holes and you like to see the seemingly insurmountable actually work.