Smile (1975)

PG   |    |  Comedy


Smile (1975) Poster

It's time again for California's "Young American Miss" beauty pageant, the biggest event of the year for Big Bob Freelander and Brenda DiCarlo, who give their all to put on a successful ... See full summary »


7/10
2,036

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26 December 2014 | dougdoepke
Deserves to be Rediscovered
A wickedly humorous send-up of small town boosterism, in which the junior chamber of commerce talks into mechanical dogs for food, turns on artificial birds for the sounds of nature, and substitutes a relentless smile for genuine feeling. Where also: just thinking you're having fun is more important than the real thing, and upbeat cliché becomes a way of life. Suddenly, into this hothouse arrives a tacky version of that crown jewel of artificiality, the beauty pageant, an event sure to drive everything into warp speed, which it does, but with surprisingly low-key results. The film avoids outright cynicism by humanizing the teen-age contestants, who are, after all, also products of small town America. Nevertheless, the script makes the disconnect clear: ritualized behavior has benumbed genuine emotion. The boosters have lost their inner selves, as will the girls if they continue on the contestant path. Amidst a uniformly fine cast stands Nicholas Pryor, whose portrayal of a desperate drunk looks so authentic, it shakes up the entire movie. A holdout from the deadening groupthink, he simply can't cope with the surroundings. Yet it is his emotional depth, from hangdog expression to slumping carriage, by which the rest of the community is measured. There's an undercurrent of the rebellious 60's running through this film, and I suspect it sank quickly because popular tastes were turning away from ironical characters named "Freelander". Nonetheless, a revival of this neglected gem is long overdue, not only for its often surprisingly subtle humor, but for the continuing relevancy of the message. However, don't look for it at your nearest chamber of commerce meeting.

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