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Thursday, 29 June 2017

Retro Review: Miss Firecracker (1989)

Miss Firecracker
Cast: Holly Hunter, Mary Steenbergen, Tim Robbins, Alfre Woodard, Scott Glenn
Genre: Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $1.8 million

Plot: Carnelle isn't happy with her life, so in order to improve herself she enters a beauty contest, trying to emulate her cousin Elain's win many years ago. Few think she can win, even her closest friends and relatives think she is heading for a big disappointment, but Carnelle is ever hopeful, seeing a win is a ticket to escape her home town of Mississippi 

'As Southern and Homely As Steel Magnolias, Yet Fizzles Out' 

A conventional drama as such, Miss Firecracker is a film that is as Southern as Steel Magnolias in its roots, but where unlike the former, the film lacks a clear focus and the movie itself wasn't as good, nor as fully watchable as I'd liked it to have been. That is despite the good performances given by Holly Hunter, Tim Robbins, Alfre Woodard and Mary Steenbergen. 

Catfish factory worker Carnelle in Holly Hunter thinks that by winning the Miss Firecracker beauty pageant contest, she'll be respected by her peers and everyone. Her cousins Elain (Mary Steenbergen) and Delmot (Tim Robbins) are also on hand. Elain won the contest, 10 years ago and for Carnelle, that time has come for her to accomplish her goal. 

Adapted by playwright Beth Henley from her play, 'The Miss Firecracker Contest', this film is peculiar; at first I wasn't sure what it was like as I was sitting through it. But as I sat through it, it reminded me of Steel Magnolias with that Deep South, homely charm mixed in with the beauty contest theme of Miss Congeniality. Both movies, Miss Firecracker & Steel Magnolias were released in the same year and starred fellow Georgia girls, Holly Hunter and Julia Roberts for the latter. 

The performances are the standout part of this movie and the cast seemed to have had enjoyed being part of it. Seeing Holly with the vibrant Red hair and twirl and hurl a fake gun into the air, as she performed her act, was so entertaining. For all that, Miss Firecracker needed more drama; the narrative just feels far too ordinary and vanilla in its direction and approach and it also struggles to attain laughs and to put a smile on my face. The characters and cast in this film are also not as approachable as in Steel Magnolias.

It's earnest and honest with some wisdom and light touches, which is nice to see, but still, that is just not enough for this movie. 

Final Verdict

Steel Magnolias without much steel and lacking in direction, Miss Firecracker is saved from being unwatchable due to Holly Hunter's fine and also valiant turn, although Tim Robbins did well also.  

Other than that, and for a few moments, it is relatively weak and Thomas Schlamme's direction is so uninspired it doesn't help matters, either. 


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