My wife likes to watch the Lifetime Movie Network. It’s not often that I can stomach it. The shows are so formulaic, and they do nothing to hide it. There is one jot of creativity per movie, usually involving the location or initial situation of the characters, and that’s it. “It’s the story of two fish oil mongers on the health food circuit.” Occasionally there’s a secondary character that’s a little bit interesting, but usually they’re just there to move the plot. They are static variables in the formula that are typed and initialized at the beginning of the program and remain unchanging until it ends, if that’s not too Tron for you. But sometimes someone makes a LMN movie that brings just a little bit more to the recipe, and they can be entertaining.
So where is that line between a cold, lifeless, mechanical, by-the-numbers flick, and something with the spark of life? It tends to be outside of the LMN, in my over-valued opinion.
Summer Eleven, which has absolutely nothing to do with LMN (I’m sorry that I even mentioned it), is an awesome, quiet, and charming film. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table. You’ve seen it all before. But it does such a good job that you will be rewarded by watching it.
This could so easily be a melodramatic afterschool special. It takes place one summer, when four girls are 11, about to go into Middle School, and all their families are having troubles.
It works because it is full of these little perfect moments. A little girl squiggles in her chair, and suddenly you know exactly what she’s about. An old man dancing slowly with his wife. That knife-sharp glance from a competitor in the waiting room. Wow.
These kids can really act. Little gestures with their hands, or fleeting expressions on their faces. Every movement is so natural. Where did they find so many great kids? Or how did the director squeeze so much character out of them?
Yeah, it’s fairly predictable. I guarantee that they end up going to school in the last shot. And you already knew that. But all the little details that they bring to this movie makes it a rich experience.
For a little while I could actually imagine that I remembered being 11.