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July 2010

Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael

cast: Winona Ryder, Jeff Daniels, Thomas Wilson Brown, and Laila Robins

director: Jim Abrahams

91 minutes (15) 1990
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Network DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
review by James A. Stewart

Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael

There was a time when Winona Ryder was one of the darlings of the American film industry. Her roles in Beetlejuice and Heathers, whilst just a teenager, had already set a standard that she was expected to follow. Of course, her well documented off the rails in more ways than one behaviour has meant her more recent press time has centred more on her extra-curricular activities than her undoubted talent.

Originally made and released at a time when her star was in the ascendancy, Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael showcase Ryder's talents to the full and remind us both of how good an actress she is, but also the fine line between critical renown and straightforward denigration. As Chuck Palahniuk wrote, "it's press coverage."

This film revolves around the life of Dinky Bosseti (Ryder), a young girl from the seemingly insular town of Clyde, which is slap bang in the middle of narrow-minded America. The whole town is in the thrall of Roxy Carmichael who elevated herself from Clyde's constrictive environs to gain some national notoriety. Dinky soon develops her own theories as to Roxy's significance to her.

Dinky is a complex girl who jettisons all concepts of social norm by playing the outfit card and readily embracing not just the need and want to be different, but also the need to stand out. This is then challenged by the desire to be loved and be normal and to interact with others. All of which is further compounded by her adolescence, which as we all know means every drama is multiplied and every mood swing exaggerated. Dinky's life is further complicated by the fact she is adopted.

Ryder is the real star of the show in this release and rightly so. She is sassy, smart, pretty and convincing. It's easy to forget how good she was in light of recent events and some pretty awful career decisions. In Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael she is ably assisted by Jeff Daniels and Thomas Wilson Brown especially. And whilst there is stereotypes a-go-go in the representation of the small town of Clyde, director Jim Abrahams does a good job in linking the townsfolk to both Dinky and Roxy. There is a reciprocal reliance between the town and Roxy for hope, Dinky and Roxy for truth, Roxy and the town for grounding (I think) and Dinky and the town for self-awareness.

Although the last 20 or so years hasn't been incredibly kind to Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael there is still an charming quality to this film which makes it entirely watchable and enjoyable. The one facet of it that does divide opinion is the effectiveness of the ending, which leaves some feeling cheated whilst others accept this as inevitable. Me? I liked it.



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