November 7, 2002

Tears of Joy

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I rate movies on a four-point scale: No cry (usually scary or slapstick movies); bad cry (a child, nice old man, or dog dies); titanic cry (reserved for films where the crying is so bad that it prevents a meal i.e. Titanic or Dances with Wolves); and the best rating, good cry. These “good cry” movies may provoke tears, but when leaving the theatre the audience at least feels good about their sentimentality. Disney’s latest, Tuck Everlasting was not only a good cry, but a great one.

Tuck Everlasting takes the audience on a journey to 1914, where we meet two families — the Fosters and the Tucks. Winnie Foster, (Gilmore Girls’ Alexis Bledel), is a fifteen-year-old girl who is continually stifled by her parents. They think that since they own the town and the surrounding woods, they can own her, too. The Tucks, Angus (William Hurt), who is referred to as Tuck through out the film, Mae (Sissy Spacek), Jesse (Jonathon Jackson) and Miles live a simple, happy life in the woods. Their only worry is the Man in the Yellow Suit (Ben Kingsley) who has been following the Tuck boys during their adventures. The two families lives become intertwined when Winnie is informed of her parents’ plans to send her to finishing school. In protest the young tomboy flees into the woods where she stumbles upon Jesse drinking from a spring at the base of a huge oak tree. When Miles finds the two of them there, he throws Winnie on his horse and brings her back to Tuck to decide what to do with the young intruder.

Although some of the acting falls short — Winnie is strikingly similar to Rory Gilmore in a 1914 get-up — the film holds its own with gorgeous scenery, a chilling performance by Kingsley, and striking dramatic scenes. One of the most interesting and artful scenes in the film juxtaposes Mrs. Foster’s piano playing with Mr. Foster’s hunt for the “kidnapped” Winnie. The Disney-esque feel of the film is obvious and is seen in its “G” love scenes (the PG rating of the film is for brief violence), and yet, the first kiss is enough to make the audience swoon.

The movie continues as Winnie begins to appreciate her new life among the Tucks. Jesse indulges her adventurous spirit and imagination, challenging her to jump into a waterfall when he knows she can’t swim (“I won’t let go of you, Winnie Foster” he boasts) and giving Winnie her first kiss. When the family finally tells Winnie their secret (that the mysterious spring maintains their immortality) she must decide whether to stay with her true love, or go back to the life that she knows. The film is complicated further when the Man in the Yellow Suit is hired by Mr. Foster to find Winnie. Unaware of the Man’s ulterior motives Mr. Foster agrees to hand over the woods if his daughter is found. Although the movie ends where we all knew it would the audience is still moved by the actions that the characters take.

Leaving the theatre, blotting the tears off my cheeks, I remembered something an old, wise, movie operator once said: “Better to have had a good cry, than to never have cried at all.”

Archived article by Alyssa Cohen