Directed by Martha Coolidge (VALLEY GIRL, RAMBLING ROSE), ANGIE tells the story of a young woman from Bensonhurst who finally feels free to choose her own destiny after she becomes pregnant. What might have been a charming character study is undone by its own ambition; melodramatic
elements introduced toward the end of the film clash with its predominantly breezy tone.
Not much seems to be going right for Angie Scacciapensieri (Geena Davis): her mother abandoned the family when Angie was a little girl; she's been dating the same guy, Vinnie (James Gandolfini), since the 9th grade; she doesn't get along with her father's second wife, Kathy (Jenny O'Hara); and
to top it off, she's pregnant. While Vinnie is delighted, Angie is restless, never having lived for herself. When she meets handsome, intriguing Noel (Stephen Rea), Angie begins to distance herself from Vinnie and finally breaks off the engagement. Her affair with Noel flourishes for several
months; meanwhile, however, her relationship with her father (Philip Bosco) and Kathy suffers, as does her friendship with her best pal Tina (Aida Turturo).
Angie goes into labor at a Christmas party (she is dressed as a round-bellied Santa) and is rushed to the hospital by Tina and Noel--the latter disappearing shortly after Angie is admitted. After an amusing scene in which the gynecologist encourages Angie to sing Marvin Hamlisch songs to take
her mind off the pain of delivery, she gives birth to a baby boy with a slightly deformed left arm. Even though she's assured by the doctor that the deformity could not be her fault, Angie feels responsible; compounding her guilt is the fact that the child wails in her arms and refuses her breast.
Upon returning home, Angie visits Noel to find out why he abandoned her at the hospital; Noel reveals not only that he is unwilling to continue their relationship but also that he is married. When later that night Angie walks in on Kathy breast-feeding the infant, she's had enough: she packs and
buys a bus ticket for Texas, in search of her mother.
Once a beautiful, free-spirited woman, Angie's mother is now old, heavily medicated to suppress her schizophrenia, and unable to leave the room, whose walls are covered with pictures of Angie sent by her father over the years. Anxious not to make the same mistake her mother did, Angie makes
plans to go home, only to discover that her son has contracted pneumonia and has been unconscious for two days. She races home and waits vigilantly by her son's hospital crib for the child to awaken, promising him she'll never leave.
Early in the film, Angie recalls the one piece of her mother's advice that stuck with her: "Some stories just have to tell themselves." Actor-turned-screenwriter Todd Graff, who adapted ANGIE from Aura Wing's novel Angie, I Says, might have benefitted from this advice. So eager is he to tell
Angie's story that much of it seems uncomfortably rushed. While this is a common problem with adapted screenplays, ANGIE is a relatively simple story that would have been more effective had it been allowed to unfold at a less hurried pace. The thematic material--motherhood and its attendant
responsibilities, autonomy and its price--is directly descended from the classic Hollywood "Women's Picture," but ANGIE lacks the conviction (and unabashed sentimentality) that drove its predecessors, and its melodramatic big moments are largely unaffecting. Still, the film is partly redeemed by
fine performances from Davis (once you get over her faux-Brooklyn accent) and, in particular, Rea, who even as a heel manages to be charming and funny. Most of the other characters are ancillary at best, never appearing on screen long or frequently enough to make us like or dislike them. (Nudity,profanity.)
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