The Young Girl And The Monsoon

The title suggests a coming-of-age story on some stormy Southeast Asian isle, but this lugubrious parent-child drama actually unfolds on the island of Manhattan, and it's half-baked rather than rain-soaked. And since the dad is even more of a whiny, obnoxious, self-centered brat than his 13-year-old daughter, it's clear that writer-director James Ryan views...read more

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Reviewed by Frank Lovece
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The title suggests a coming-of-age story on some stormy Southeast Asian isle, but this lugubrious parent-child drama actually unfolds on the island of Manhattan, and it's half-baked rather than rain-soaked. And since the dad is even more of a whiny, obnoxious, self-centered brat than his 13-year-old daughter, it's clear that writer-director James Ryan views his characters through a highly self-indulgent lens. The film's one saving grace is 18-year-old Ellen Muth, who gives one of the screen's most natural, non-Hollywood portrayals of a child since... well, since she played the young Jennifer Jason Leigh in DOLORES CLAIBORNE. Here she plays Constance, the pubescent daughter of morose, self-satisfied and vaguely creepy world-class photojournalist Hank (Terry Kinney). With her newly remarried mom off on an extended honeymoon, Constance comes to live with Hank for three months — a turn of events her father greets with grudging obligation. It's not that he doesn't love her, but it's hard to tell exactly what the problem is, since Hank is a moody egoist who just gets more obnoxious and self-righteous as the story plods on. Hank himself can't even explain why Constance's arrival prompts him to break up with his only slightly less-insufferable girlfriend, Erin (Mili Avital), the shortest and largest-pored "$10,000-a-week" model in history. The choppily edited film — which is sometimes narrated from Constance's perspective and sometimes from an omniscient POV — traces father and daughter's relationship as they're forced to deal with each other more regularly and closely than ever before. A pointless subplot involving Hank's petulant vacillation over going to Macedonia — somehow he's a shoo-in for a Humanitas prize — does nothing except highlight actor-turned-filmmaker Ryan's poor research: Hank's editor, Giovanna (Diane Venora), treats the potentially career-ending story falsification to which he confesses as no big deal. (Tell that to infamous former Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke.) Matching the queasy cinematography and mediocre directing and acting is dialog so banal that by comparison, Eric Rohmer's is positively Tarantino-esque. Just when you think things can't get worse — and by now we've already seen the overly made-up and sleazily dressed 13-year-old curled up on her dad's lap in a restaurant — comes the scene in which Hank viciously berates and bullies Constance in public. Ironically, the natural-as-air delivery of Muth's comeback — the essence of pure teen-bravado — turns this narrative nadir into the highpoint of her performance.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Review: The title suggests a coming-of-age story on some stormy Southeast Asian isle, but this lugubrious parent-child drama actually unfolds on the island of Manhattan, and it's half-baked rather than rain-soaked. And since the dad is even more of a whiny, obnoxi… (more)

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