Two Films Starring Timothy Hutton

Did you know that Timothy Hutton’s father was also an actor?  Jim Hutton was a contract player in Hollywood for many years; he got into acting while serving in the army.  He was said to have been similar to Jimmy Stewart- very tall, lanky, and a bit absent-minded in his delivery.  Unfortunately, Jim Hutton died young, before his son (at 18 y.o.) won Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Ordinary People, a touching domestic drama directed by Robert Redford.  In that film, Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland played Tim’s parents- WOW!

Despite his “boy next door” type of looks, there is something mysterious about Timothy Hutton.  He’s the type of actor you see pausing and thinking about a scene.  But, that’s not a problem, b/c he’s VERY good at becoming a character.  I like the fact that Hutton gets intelligent, sometimes very understated, roles.

Beautiful Girls (1996)

The main character, a piano player living in NYC, Willie (Hutton), goes to his working-class hometown (Knight’s Ridge) to visit his dad, little brother (David Arquette), and friends.  Their high school reunion is coming up, too.

One friend, Mo (Noah Emmerich), is a factory manager who’s settled w/ a wife and 2 rambunctious young kids.  He admires Willie for following his dreams.  Tommy (Matt Dillon), a star athlete in his high school days,  has a snow plowing business and a girlfriend named Sharon (Mira Sorvino).  But he has an on-again, off-again relationship w/ his high school sweetheart, Darian (Lauren Holly), who’s married to a wealthy man and mother to a toddler.  Paul (Michael Rapaport) is another snow plower who recently broke up w/ his long-term girlfriend, Jan (Martha Plimpton), a waitress who wants to settle down.  Paul is immature; he’s still crazy about supermodels (posters are all over his bedroom).

Willie, who’s deciding whether he should take his own relationship to the next level, meets his father’s neighbor, Marty (Natalie Portman), a 13 y.o. “old soul.”  They have some interesting conversations; she reminds him of less complicated times (childhood, innocence).

Willie, and all his pals, are intrigued by a glamorous visitor to town, Andera (Uma Thurman), the cousin of local bartender, Stinky. She’s the personification of their dream girl, so they all try to impress her how they can.  Andera is spoken for back in Chicago and Willie has a girlfriend, a lawyer named Tracy (Annabeth Gish).

This film is quite good (have seen it 3x over the years); the dialogue is (mostly) true to life.  It’s VERY well cast, too.  You get to know something about each of these young people who are in transition.  (If you enjoyeded Diner, Barry Levinson’s 1982 film, you’ll like Beautiful Girls.)  Though the title refers to women, it’s mainly a story of male frienship and romantic issues (self-doubt, fear of commitment, etc.)  Rosie O’Donnell has a REALLY clever/humorous scene inside a drugstore.

The Substance of Fire (1996)

As a young boy living in Europe, Isaac Geldhart (Ron Rifkin), hides in an attic filled w/ books to evade the Nazis.  From his window, he sees crowds burning books written by Jews.  As an adult, Isaac is a respected publisher of finely-made/serious books in NYC, though the business (Kepler Geldhart) is losing money.  His wife died a few years ago, and he’s still taking it VERY hard, though he hides it (w/ his charm, intelligence, etc.)  His eldest son, Aaron (Tony Goldwyn, giving an understated performance), handles the financial affairs of the family business.  Another son, Martin (Hutton), is a landscape designer/college lecturer living in the Hudson Valley.  The youngest child, Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), is an actress on a local children’s TV show.

Aaron, who’s out as a gay man, wants to publish a novel written by his boyfriend, Val (Gil Bellows).  Isaac insists that his company will NEVER publish trash like that.  Aaron decides to take control (w/ the help of his siblings, who are also shareholders).  It’s a tough decision for the kids.  Isaac, whose behavior becomes domineering and irrational, is enraged; he even asks for his surname to be removed from Aaron’s company!  Isaac opens his own firm and cuts himself off from his children for many months.  With the help of his long-time secretary, the kids get into the house (a historic townhouse), which has become a total mess.  They realize that something could be seriously wrong w/ their father.

I saw this film last week on Netflix; it caught my eye b/c of its cast.  It has some strong acting, esp. from Rifkin and Hutton, BUT just tried to do a BIT too much (w/ not enough time).  I wanted to know some more backstory and character motivation (esp. when it came to the BIG sacrifice Martin made).   The premise is quite unusual/interesting; the (realistic) issues addressed are VERY emotionally-charged.

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