December 6, 2002

Daze Rant

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My family’s home is nestled in Westchester metropolis, Yonkers, N.Y. While not far removed from the city’s denser districts, my neighborhood is a quiet alcove with homes that face the Hudson River.

The area is pretty uneventful.

That said, I was planning on an uneventful return for Thanksgiving break followed by some uneventful fridge raiding and hopefully some much-needed (albeit uneventful) sleep. However, as I got closer to my destination, I noticed something quite eventful about the area.

Scores of trucks, trailers, vans, and Jeeps with blacked-out windows were blocking many of the narrow avenues in my area, police were directing traffic, and hurried workers were mumbling into headsets. Then, it dawned on me. What looked like a construction site was something worse, much worse.

My neighborhood had been turned into, gulp, a movie set.

Thanks to some credible sources and several signs reading “Mona”, I deduced that the street had not only turned into a set — it had turned into a Julia Roberts-movie set for the film Mona Lisa Smile, also starring Kirsten Dunst and Julia Stiles.

My mother, who had been interacting with some of the project’s unfriendly assistants in the mornings, also noted that the trailers and trucks had been obstructing the normal flow of things for weeks. Certain aspects of Smile, like the fake snow (made from salt or pillow stuffing) appealed to us as an intriguing novelty but during the final week (luckily the week I arrived), the shoot was getting on our last nerve.

Did the movie’s A+ lister or young starlets ever show their million-dollar smiles? Not really but the crew did try to keep me from driving down a street I used to go down every day when I was very late to pick up a friend. Thankfully, a grip (that’s movie lingo for a set-lackey who has to do the grunt work) moved that film cart or I would have been splashed on the front page of the National Enquirer.

Okay, maybe not the front page but maybe the column next to the crossword. Now, some may mock me for my Hollywood hubris, but I say, if Ms. Roberts is going to inconvenience a neighborhood for three weeks we should get more than annoyed stares from PAs.

Without having seen a stitch of footage from Smile, I can’t tell if it sucks and I’m not promoting a boycott but I am realizing that we in the “real” world (not the MTV version) must be better critics. Be thankful when something excellent comes around by supporting it and don’t give excuses for Hollywood’s increasingly poor output.

Remember, somewhere in the world, someone’s Thanksgiving vacation was ruined by them.

Archived article by Carlos Perkins