Cadillac Girls

(Jealous For Love, Nicholas Kendall, Canada, 1993)


Many filmgoers appreciate that, besides the high-tone dramas of teenage experience like Dead Poets Society (1989) or Flirting (1991), there is a vast, pop world of energetic, savvy teen movies like Heathers (1989) or Sixteen Candles (1984).

In between these poles, however, there is a kind of teen film that goes straight to the video shop with scarcely a word of appreciation. I’m thinking of lovely, low-key movies like Permanent Record (1988) or The Prince of Pennsylvania (1988) – two Keanu Reeves movies before his superstardom – that explore in an essentially naturalistic way some of the questions and crises of growing up.

Cadillac Girls is a film of this sort, a portrait of a volatile mother-daughter relationship. Single mother Sally (Jennifer Dale) is an ambitious, self-contained person pursuing an academic career much to the chagrin of daughter Page (Mia Kirshner), who in response drifts into casual pastimes of sex and crime.

Forced together by the court, Sally and Page painfully negotiate their mutual resentments and needs – and both tangle with local Irish poet Sam (Gregory Harrison), who is loquacious and horny as Irish poets in movies tend to be.

There is more than a touch of old-fashioned moralism in the film, but it is most moving when it explores the liberating dissolution of family roles in the shared experience of these "Cadillac girls". Director Nicholas Kendall and writer Peter Behrens cover the female terrain with admirable sensitivity and insight.

© Adrian Martin March 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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