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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

The Great Gilly Hopkins movie review: a girl’s anger

The Great Gilly Hopkins green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

A tough, simple story about a foster kid whose path to finding a family and a home is not an easy one. There are no platitudes here, just bittersweet truth.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): desperate for movies about girls and women
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Another beloved children’s novel by Katherine Paterson — she also wrote Bridge to Terabithia, which became a lovely and heartbreaking film a few years back — comes to the big screen… though mostly to the small one, because The Great Gilly Hopkins is being released on only a handful of screens; most fans of the book will have to catch it on VOD (or on DVD in a few months). For those not familiar with the book, it’s not about wizards and it’s not set in a postapocalyptic dystopia, which is perhaps why it’s not deemed worthy of a wide release in the current cinematic environment, which is all about spectacle. This is a tough, simple story about a 12-year-old foster kid who’s tired of being shuffled from home to home and dreams of the mother who abandoned her swooping in to take her away to a wonderful life. Sophie Nélisse (the eponymous Book Thief) is all sharp-edged angry sparks as Gillytweet, who plots to run away from her latest foster home, run by the effusive Trotter (Kathy Bates: The Boss), whose kindness grates on the girl. But perhaps sympathy from a new teacher, Miss Harris (Octavia Spencer: Allegiant), along an unlikely vector may succeed where persistent warmth fails: the scene in which Harris pegs Gilly’s rage as the source of her power and her pain is extraordinary. Gilly is a real kid the likes of which we don’t often see onscreen, and her path to finding a family and a home is not an easy one. There are no platitudes here, just bittersweet truth.tweet

3.5 stars

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The Great Gilly Hopkins (2016) | directed by Stephen Herek
US/Can release: Oct 07 2016 (VOD same day)

MPAA: rated PG for thematic material and language

viewed on my iPad

IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Rotten Tomatoes

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