Children On Their Birthdays

Truman Capote's richly atmospheric short stories and novellas have always been attractive to filmmakers, who rarely have the sensitivity to capture Capote's bittersweet longing for acceptance. Nothing much happens in Medda, Alabama: Having lost his father during WWII, 13-year old Billy Bob Murphy (Joe Pichler) is trying to earn enough money to travel to...read more

Reviewed by Robert Pardi
Rating:

Truman Capote's richly atmospheric short stories and novellas have always been attractive to filmmakers, who rarely have the sensitivity to capture

Capote's bittersweet longing for acceptance. Nothing much happens in Medda, Alabama: Having lost his father during WWII, 13-year old Billy Bob Murphy (Joe Pichler) is trying to earn enough money to travel to the upcoming World Series and root for the Cardinals. Billy Bob and his best friend, Preacher Stur

(Jesse Premons), do odd jobs for resident mechanic Speedy Thorne (Christopher MacDonald), but in 1947 two new arrivals shake up Billy Bob's priorities. First, impresario Lionel Quince (Tom Arnold) and his glamorous wife (Marilyn Dodds Frank) show up to scope out business opportunities among the rubes and then, on his birthday, Billy Bob makes the acquaintance of new neighbor, vivacious, sophisticated, 13-year-old Lily Jane Bobbit (Tania Raymonde), who moves in next door with her mute mother (Phyllis Frelich). Lily Jane wants to be a movie star, and already dresses the part; with her unconventional manner of speaking, liberal viewpoints and fancy clothes, Lily Jane sets the local teens' pulses racing. In fact, Billy Bob is so smitten he picks all his mother's (Sheryl Lee Diamond) prized roses as a tribute to Lily Jane. Billy Bob's infatuation with Lily drives a wedge between him and Preacher, and Lily Jane's friendship with an African-American child, Rosalba (Brazha L. Brewer), sets neighborhood tongues to wagging. Lily Jane's hopes of stardom are raised by the Quinces' announcement that they're staging a talent contest, but the grifters abscond with the entry fees. Can Lily Jane's local fan club catch up to the crooks? Because director Mark Medoff and screenwriter Douglas Sloan never quite get under the skin of Capote's quirky characters, especially the precocious Lily Jane, what should be a magically nostalgic tale seen through the eyes of a star-struck, small-town boy instead feels arch and brittle.

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