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Friday, January 30, 2009

New in Town

I guess it is no surprise by now to regular readers that I love poor white trash. It is, after all, my heritage, although we try to goose it up and call it “middle class” since we come from the north and there are Jews in our family. Jews don’t ‘do’ poor white trash even if it fits, mostly because we know that to qualify for pure “PWT” status you have to develop a propensity for Cheetos® and pork rinds. We can easily handle the Cheetos® part, but there’s always going to be segments of our people who will never let pork rinds touch their lips. I say “segments” because none of us are supposed to eat pork, but I’m willing to admit that under the strain of smelling something tasty in the morning I’ve been lured down the wanton path of sin to partake of some bacon with my eggs thanks to my perfect, if gentile, husband.

I don’t think that letting bacon graze my uvula quite makes me PWT though. You have to really make a commitment to qualify for that honor. Granted, my husband does have a pick-up truck, but there’s no rust on it and I can’t drive a stick, so I completely fail on that count. I’m not too keen on country music either; I don’t hate it, but other than Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Carrie Underwood I wouldn’t know a Grand Old Opry star if he or she pulled their tour bus up to my front door and said “Howdy!” unless it was Wynona and she was asking to use the toilet real fast thanks to all that Alli® she’s been downing to lose weight. I don’t know diddly about her singing but I’ve seen her pushing that colon polisher in commercials and I know it will push food through you faster than crap through a canary, so it never pays to be more than 200 yards away from the porcelain god any time you are popping those capsules. My perfect hubby says they call it Alli® because that’s where you’re most likely to end up taking a dump if somebody’s already using the bathroom when you’re at the store and the medicine starts to work. But I digress.

The biggest flop I have in earning the title of PWT is in being a good neighbor. You know how poor white trash is. They always know everybody and their business that live within a ten mile radius of their home, and they make green bean casseroles for the folks down the road when they hear that Geraldine twisted her ankle again and can’t stand at the stove one night or Benny’s back’s gone out after his Lazyboy™ slipped a gear. Me? I’ve lived in the same place for fifteen years and barely recognize the people next door. I know one guy further down the street at least well enough to wave when I see him drive by, but that’s because he’s charming and makes it a point to introduce himself to everybody, but it took ten years before I even knew exactly who did live right next to me. I confess in a weak moment, my coal hard heart softened once during the holiday season and I actually baked some cookies and delivered them to my neighbors one evening, leaving them in so much shock and awe that it took years for them to recuperate enough to speak to me again. I didn’t think my cookies were that bad, but after this incident I was convinced that perhaps I shouldn’t be shared foodstuffs with others unless they sign a legal release first, which pretty much negates the whole “love thy neighbor” creed of the poor white trash masses. Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, I also don’t have any Dale Earnhardt tattoos or own a Confederate flag, so I’m never going to make it as an insider.

Being an outsider like me is exactly what Renée Zellweger faces in her latest comedy
New in Town, in which she plays rising executive Lucy Hill, who volunteers to temporarily relocate from her home in Miami to a small town in Minnesota for the task of making-over a tiny food plant recently purchased by the conglomerate for which she works in order to turn it into a modern, mostly automated production facility. As happens in such fish-out-of-water pictures, after a prolonged bit of shtick watching Lucy make just about every mistake she possibly can to embarrass herself amongst the locals, she then really makes them turn against her by betraying them with the revelation that her agenda will mean a cut in the workforce by at least half. That’s when the hard-boiled Hill’s hatchet-woman façade starts to crack and she begins to realize that her self-obsessed desire to make Vice-President has blinded her from the obvious: her personal career goals are going to have devastating effects on the lives of almost every person in the little burg of New Ulm, Minnesota.

By this time, the locals have found a place in Ms. Hill’s heart. Despite her initial resistance, eventually Lucy comes to enjoy her would-be Executive Assistant, Blanche Gunderson (Siobhan Fallon Hogan; Baby Mama), the tapioca making, scrapbooking, and Jesus loving social center of New Ulm, and it is Blanche’s continuing kindnesses that helps Lucy eventually see the light and realize that the town deserves better than to be written off by a bunch of men in suits thousands of miles away. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s found a spark of romance with the area union representative, widower Ted Mitchell (Harry Connick, Jr.; P.S. I Love You), and she’s found herself becoming close to his teenage daughter Bobbie (debuting Ferron Guerreiro), who desperately needs some mothering.

The second half of the film is dedicated to Lucy’s struggle with how to rescue the town and the plan
t from extinction while the folks haven’t yet decided to trust her fully because they feel she deceived them. But who can resist Renée Zellweger? All she has to do is make that trademark squinty face a few dozen times and fall down now and again and you know she’ll win them over. Her harshest critic is Stu Kopenhafer, the plant’s former foreman, played to the hayseed hilt by J.K. Simmons (tv’s “The Closer”), who is hysterical in every scene he steals. Once he caves, all will be well, and you know he’s going to come around and help save the day because it’s that kind of movie.

While
New in Town is nothing new, it is cute and funny even if the plot hails back to an era when Frank Capra comedies ruled the cinema and people believed in the power of one man (or woman) to change the world and make everything right because he or she was simply pure of heart. Maybe that’s why New in Town opened to a disappointing 8th place in the weekend grosses with only $6.74M compared to Taken, which reaped an astounding $24.7M. It’s sad to think that audiences would rather watch an abduction and abuse of women and call that “entertainment” than two hours of harmless but good-natured laughs. Maybe I’m still living in Obamaland, but I’m going to hope for the best and recommend spending some time being happy with Renée and Harry over just another shoot-‘em-up with Taken even if the odds are against me.

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