CORRINA, CORRINA tells the story of a young girl, her jingle pitchman father, and the sassy housekeeper who radically alters their lives. Whoopi Goldberg, Ray Liotta, and newcomer Tina Magorino make this unlikely but purportedly autobiographical tale much more entertaining that it has
any right to be.
Set in a Northeastern American suburb in 1959, CORRINA, CORRINA focuses on the unhappy Jewish household of Manny Singer (Ray Liotta). Manny, a recently widowed advertising agency composer, looks for a housekeeper to care for his seven-year-old daughter, Molly (Tina Majorino). After interviewing
many unqualified people for the position, Manny finally hires Corrina Washington (Whoopi Goldberg), a college-educated African-American woman who is forced to take the menial job out of economic necessity.
Corrina would rather write about jazz music than clean house, but she quickly forms a bond with Molly, who has been mute ever since her mother's untimely death. When Molly begins speaking again, Manny immediately recognizes Corrina's special gifts. Manny is further surprised and delighted to
discover that Corrina shares an interest in all kinds of music. Manny and Corrina grow closer still when she helps him compose a jingle for Jell-O Pudding. Meanwhile, Corrina's sister, Jevina (Jenifer Lewis), with whom Corrina lives "on the other side of town," remains skeptical about Manny's
Just as their romance begins to blossom, Manny and Corrina realize they have different ideas about raising Molly. Manny, for example, is a confirmed atheist, but Corrina encourages Molly to believe in a hereafter. Still, Manny accepts Corrina as a "surrogate" mother until the day he discovers
that she has been keeping Molly out of school. Corrina explains that Molly is not ready to go back to school, but Manny feels betrayed and fires her. Later, after the death of his father, Manny reconsiders how he treated Corrina and questions his entire belief system. He asks Corrina to forgive
him, and she accepts his hand in marriage.
CORRINA, CORRINA may be best described as a "feel good" movie in which the characters of the story learn how to feel good (by listening to music, flying kites, eating chocolates, etc.). The film's calculated attempts to spread cheer, mostly through big smiles and hugs that virtually become part
of the brightly-colored mise-en-scene, are surprisingly successful. Yet this upbeat film also sweetens, simplifies, and generally distorts the time and place it tries so hard to capture.
The film's nostalgic dishonesty is especially troubling because CORRINA, CORRINA claims to tell the true story of writer-producer-director Jessie Nelson's upbringing. Nelson's recreation of a racially divisive era generally fails; few incidents of racism actually occur, and when they do, they
are associated only with two-dimensional minor characters. And, as if not to offend contemporary conservative viewers, the Manny-Corrina "romance" gingerly features kisses on the cheek and only one brief, interrupted kiss on the lips.
Fortunately, the three leads save CORRINA, CORRINA from being a complete whitewash: Whoopi Goldberg brings humor and depth to Corrina, the third of her "housekeeper" roles to date (which also includes CLARA'S HEART, 1988, and THE LONG WALK HOME, 1990); Ray Liotta seems miscast as a
Jewish-American adman, but he nicely conveys the dimensions of his grieving character; and Tina Magorino proves winning and likable as little Molly, perhaps the most difficult assignment in the film. Additionally, Jenifer Lewis makes the most of her small role as Corrina's caustic sister, and the
rest of the supporting cast enthusiastically if cartoonishly fill out the other parts. A generous selection of jazz tunes also helps to compensate for the film's rather sluggish pace and awkward editing.
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