Many of the classic screwball comedies of the 1930s and '40s poked fun at the foibles of wealthy bluebloods. THE LOTUS EATERS, like Capra's YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU, follows the plight of a zany working-class brood. Intended as a sweet, lollipop-flavored, coming-of-age tale, the film's
straining for the liberating effects of wild and crazy personal expression leaves a sour after-taste.
In a Canadian boondocks in 1964, high school principal Hal Kingswood (R.H. Thomson) and his mousy wife Diana (Sheila McCarthy) cope with raising their two daughters: Cleo (Tara Frederick), a Beatles fanatic who's about to get knocked up by Dwayne Spittle (Gabe Khouth), and little Zoe (Alaka
McLean), who blossoms under the tutelage of her new progressive grade school teacher, Anne-Marie (Michele Barbara Pelletier). Spouting hippie philosophy, Anne-Marie gifts Zoe with a book of magic spells. Equally enchanted is Hal, who has a higher personal regard for Anne-Marie than for her
Escalating in intensity from a bout with setting free her pet pigs to inadvertently causing a shack to catch fire, Zoe's incantations work small wonders but can't prevent bigger tragedies from adversely affecting her family. First, Grandma is forced to reveal that Hal's dad, whom he believed
long-dead, is really alive but banished from their lives due to his infidelity. Meanwhile, Anne-Marie, who's just jilted a man she didn't love in the big city, can't deny her ardor for Hal; their lovemaking is spotted Halloween night by Zoe who turns against her teacher and steps up her
spellcasting. After Grandma is felled by a stroke, the news of Hal's extramarital fling surfaces at a Thanksgiving feast attended by Anne-Marie but boycotted by Zoe.
Dealing with her wounded pride, Diana strikes back by torching Hal's pleasure boat which the adulterers might have sailed to Mexico. By the time Anne-Marie packs her bags, Zoe is reconciled with her, and Hal has won Diana's forgiveness. With or without magic, Zoe takes a more mature approach to
the indiscretions and weaknesses of her elders.
This pointless parade of adorableness expects spectators to be amused by its characters' excesses at the same time it wants us to identify with their unquenchable human needs. Instead of regarding Hal as a victim of the seven-year itch, we come to view him as a stodgy, ineffectual father who ought
to run away to Mexico--alone. Instead of sympathizing with free-spirited Anne-Marie as she lives for love, we disrespect her ambition to palm herself off as a flower child when she's just a selfish homewrecker. As for the Kingswood daughters, Cleo is a spoiled princess unable to cope with her own
teenage sexuality and Zoe is a pesky buttinski whose unsolicited opening of her grandmother's package dredges up a family scandal.
Despite the cycle of misery, the filmmakers haphazardly employ a comic tone so we'll view the participants as reckless romantics (what they really are is irresponsible; why do Hal and Anne-Marie have sex in front of a window, visible to those outside?) As for Zoe's last-minute reconciliation with
her fallen idol, this deus ex machina of forgiveness comes not out of left field but out of a different ballpark. Evoking nostalgia for the 1960s, THE LOTUS EATERS is a valentine to vacillating characters the audience cannot embrace. The protagonists aren't comic rebels against conformity; they're
victims of a screenwriter's giggling fits.(Profanity, sexual situations, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Many of the classic screwball comedies of the 1930s and '40s poked fun at the foibles of wealthy bluebloods. THE LOTUS EATERS, like Capra's YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU, follows the plight of a zany working-class brood. Intended as a sweet, lollipop-flavored… (more)