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Harriet the Spy (1996)
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When the secret notebook of a young girl who fancies herself a spy is found by her friends, her speculations make her very unpopular! Can she win her friends back?

Harriet the Spy (1996)

Is About Itself

This little film has been roundly criticised for being disjointed and amateurish.

Well, it is disjointed: part of it is surreal allegory, part realistic morality play. Part of it moves with a natural rhythm while other parts seem to have been transplanted from afternoon TeeVee. Some is done with a cartoon cosmology, and the rest is straight from Marlo Thomas’ heart. Distributed throughout are mottles of bad acting and unconsidered dialog.

And I loved it all. Why?

Because this is in the tradition of movies and books that generate themselves. Rather, the characters in the stories play double duty as the authors of the story and the creators of the world that surrounds it. So it makes sense as precisely what a preteen would imagine her older self writing about her.

Indeed, the whole thing is a meditation on how someone might abstract the world (for writing) without a mature faculty for abstraction — which is to say how a kid would imagine an adult’s mind imagining a kid’s mind.

Its all about the deep problems of writing. I imagine the author of the original book sitting down and having trouble writing, them ruminating about why on the page.

Therefore, we have a youthful experimenter, a blocked writer, a “gardener” who makes environments from trash, another maker of environments (cages) who craves companionship, a woman who lives in a cage (Kitt), the Dad who is a movie comedian, together with lesser characters.

And the spy who spies so she can write what we see. It is all about sight and callow abstraction, just what movies were made for. Sure, it differs from the book because film can amplify what the book cannot. The adapter (the guy that did the game as life as game “Jumanji” project) understood this.

Posted in 2005

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.

IMDB

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