A coming of age story set in the South of USA when Elvis was King.
Sam Waterston, Tess Harper, Gail Strickland, Reese Witherspoon
Rural Louisiana, summer of 1957, Elvis is King. At 14, Dani is coming of age. Her older sister is beautiful, smart, and off to Duke in the fall; her mom’s pregnant with number four (Dad wants a son), and Dad’s pretty strict. Life gets sweeter when 17-year-old Court Foster, his widowed mom, and two little brothers move into the vacant farm next door. Court likes Dani’s high spirits and direct way, and though he has a man’s responsibilities on the farm, they go off swimming sometimes. The waters of adolescence are deeper than Dani realizes as hers and Court’s feelings get jumbled. Then Mother Nature throws wrenching surprises at Dani, and she must come to terms with new emotions.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this movie as a teenager and immediately identified with Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of Dani Trant, a 14-year-old tomboy in rural Louisiana circa 1957. She feels that she will never be as beautiful as her older sister, Maureen (a now rarely seen Emily Warfield), and feeling out of place in terms of her conservative Baptist upbringing. Then seventeen year old Court Foster (Jason London), the son of her mother’s close friend (Gail Strickland) moves in next door, Dani experiences her first crush, while Court enjoys her company, and willful spirit. Dani succeeds in getting her first kiss from him, but as soon as he sees Maureen, he falls head over heels for her, leaving Dani behind. The sisters’ close bond is fractured severely by the rivalry that erupts, which only deepens when Court dies in a tragic accident. The girls then are made to realize how much they need each other.
Sam Waterson and Tess Harper are just perfect as the loving parents, trying to balance their daughters’ individuality, at the same time trying to keep the family together. The beautiful cinematography, and the wonderful soundtrack featuring Elvis Presley, The Platters and many more contribute wonderfully to the film’s atmosphere of a simpler time.
A touching coming-of-age film with a timeless message.