[L]ike Tom Hanks's Forrest Gump in "Forrest Gump" and Sean Penn's Sam in "I Am Sam" and Juliette Lewis's Carla in "The Other Sister," Beth is mostly a constellation of misfit affectations - funny clothes, bipolar outbursts, a forced, garbled voice - and goofy physicality. Beth seems to be wrapped in a loose, superfluous layer of flesh, a symptom of some kind of metabolic disorder (she also gobbles sweets). As a character, she doesn't make sense: she's socially awkward, but not consistently disabled. She's less poignant or tragic than merely clamorous and bothersome.Maybe we can finally draw the line and say if it's just an actor playing developmentally disabled -- a well-known Oscar/Emmy-begging strategy -- we may -- we must! -- level our harshest judgment.
But if she bugs you, it's your problem. This underhanded movie makes Ms. O'Donnell into an appalling cartoon only to pretend innocence - or, no, moral superiority - when the viewer is appalled. Is Beth's voice deafening on your television set? Is her lumpy form in a Tweety Bird T-shirt depressing? Is her nascent sexuality hard to contemplate? You must have no heart. And you will have to come around to her innocent wonders.
April 29, 2005
Virginia Heffernan writes: