'90s Movie Month! "My Girl" Review

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Vada Sultenfuss is a young girl obsessed with death. Her father runs a funeral parlor, and her mother is no longer living. She is in love with her English teacher, and her best friend is allergic to everything.
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'90s Movie Month! "My Girl" Review

Rating: PG-13 (language and some sex and drug references)
Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: November 27, 1991
Directed by: Howard Zieff
Genre: Drama/Romance/Family

Set in 1972 in Madison, Pennsylvania, "My Girl" is a coming-of-age tale focused on Vada Sultenfuss, played by Anna Chlumsky. Over the course of the summer, she experiences many life-changing events that force her to grow and develop.

Vada is an eleven-year-old tomboy who suffers from hypochondria and has an unhealthy obsession with death due to living in a funeral home. She lives with her widowed father, Harry Sultenfuss, played by Dan Aykroyd, who lost his wife while she was giving birth to Vada. Like his daughter, Harry is timid, is emotionally reserved, and doesn't like to discuss sensitive issues. While he is a loving parent, he ignores his daughter because he is unable to understand her. Because of the lack of communication, Vada believes that she caused her mother to die, as she passed while giving birth. Vada doesn't have too many friends at school. She is teased for being a tomboy and for being friends with an unpopular boy named Thomas J. Sennett, played by Macaulay Culkin, a shy yet friendly youngster who suffers from multiple allergies.

Even with these various personal problems, "My Girl" starts off fairly well for all the characters. On a nice summer day, Vada and Thomas are enjoying themselves playing outside. Thomas sprays Vada with a water pistol, which causes her to chase him into the forest. While they're in the woods, they decide to throw rocks at a hornet nest. After angering the hornets, they quickly run away and Vada drops her mood ring.

Harry, who is typically antisocial, meets a traveling freelance makeup saleswoman named Shelly DeVoto, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, whom he starts dating. Vada quickly takes a liking to her, and Shelly offers some much needed support and direction that she wasn't getting from her father. Vada also enters a summer writing class taught by Mr. Bixler, played by Griffin Dunne, whom she is quite fond of.

While the summer seems to be going well for everyone, Vada's life suddenly takes a nosedive as she experiences a windfall of bad events. She discovers that the teacher she likes has a fiancée, and Harry and Shelly get engaged, which bothers her as she feels she is losing her dad's attention. Probably the worst event of all is that her best friend Thomas ventures off into the forest searching for the mood ring she lost where he is attacked by a swarm of bees and dies due to an allergic reaction.

All this tragedy forces Vada to break out of her shell and really develop as a person. This is the core of the movie and is emotionally engaging. Most people have experienced personal problems that have changed their core personalities or forced them to grow. If you fit into this category, you will likely enjoy this touching movie.

Even if you cannot relate to the tragic portion of the film, it is also about growing up, which everyone can relate to. The growing pains and awkward moments, such as Vada experiencing her first period and being unable to discuss it with her father, are topics that people can relate to even if they didn't go through the exact experiences.

Thanks to the great performances of the main actors, the film flawlessly glides through the emotional roller coaster that Vada is on, taking you through the highs and lows. It will surely put a smile on your face at times and may also cause you to shed a tear or two.

This movie is appealing because of how direct it is; there isn't a complex meaning being the story or a secret message to find. It displays the raw emotion of a child dealing with serious events such as death, remarriage, and growing up. When her best friend dies, Vada is forced to face one of her worse fearsher overwhelming fear and obsession with death.

However, through all the sadness, Vada and her father become closer and begin to discuss serious issues with each other. Harry is finally able to explain to his daughter that her mother's death wasn't caused by her. Through this touching conversation, Vada is relieved of her lifelong guilt and is closer to her father than ever before. Vada's jealousy toward Shelly for taking her dad's attention fades away as they all bond together and become a family.

"My Girl" is an emotionally powerful film that directly displays a family experiencing real and serious issues. Through the pain and struggle, a father and daughter who once had a distant relationship are able to both mature emotionally and become close.

Rating: 3 out of 5