An homage to old-time Hollywood programmers about spunky small-town girls in the big city, shady ladies with hearts of gold and fresh-faced young men of impeccable decency, first-time writer-director Alan Hruska's bloodless little fairy tale is utterly innocuous and instantly forgettable. Eighteen-year-old singer-songwriter Nola (Emmy Rossum) lives in Kansas with her junkie mom (Janis Dardaris) and stepfather (Matt Servitto), dreaming of the day she'll be able to leave to find her real father. Never mind that he abandoned his pregnant girlfriend, or that Nola knows only his nickname "Hutch" and that he came from New York City. Nola decamps after an ugly altercation with her stepdad and hops an East-bound bus, her pockets empty and her head full of dreams, only to find that New York City can be a cold and lonely place. But not for long: After a minimum of sleeping in doorways, Nola finds a job waiting tables at a funky East Village diner and a berth on the couch of handsome young fry cook Ben (James Badge Dale, son of Broadway star Anita Morris), who's attending law school at night. And there's more good luck to come: The diner is owned by the mysterious Margaret (Mary McDonnell), a feminist madam who runs the most decent, non-exploitative, equal-opportunity brothel in town and offers Nola a job as her assistant. The position includes bed and board at Margaret's luxurious townhouse. Nola befriends cuddly transvestite hooker Wendy (Michael Cavadias), learns that an ad in the Village Voice juxtaposing the words "18-year-old," "seeking" and "father" is an open call for perverts and matches wits with kinky power broker Niles (Thom Christopher), who's nursing a serious grudge against both Wendy and Margaret. Vile Niles is out of Nola's league and her efforts to help only make matters worse, but Nola's ex-boyfriend, crusading journalist Leo (Steven Bauer), throws his hat into the ring and after a few complications, everything works out for the best. Credit where it's due: After a long and successful career as a lawyer, Hruska decided to follow his dreams of making a movie and certainly didn't disgrace himself. He just didn't particularly distinguish himself aside from casting the willowy Rossum, a lovely screen presence who can really sing, as the half-dozen people who saw SONGCATCHER (2000) well know. But one youngster even a youngster as talented as Rossum can't transform a mess of clichés into a little gem.
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- Released: 2003
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: An homage to old-time Hollywood programmers about spunky small-town girls in the big city, shady ladies with hearts of gold and fresh-faced young men of impeccable decency, first-time writer-director Alan Hruska's bloodless little fairy tale is utterly inn… (more)