Monday, August 21, 2017

The Great Gilly Hopkins: An Emotional Ride Through the Lives of the Characters

Movie Review: The Great Gilly Hopkins (2015)
Version: Library borrow

I last saw Sophie Nelisse in the exceptional lead role in The Book Thief. She returns in the amazing lead role as The Great Gilly Hopkins.

Gilly is an unruly unwanted 12-year-old foster child hoping to reunite with her mother. But for a schoolyard-wise, book-smart child, she just doesn't have a clue. She has been through the foster care mill and landing in the home of foster mother Maime Trotter (played by charmer Kathy Bates) and the classroom of Ms Harris (played by invincible Octavia Spencer), Gilly puts up a battle to beat the system and find the mother who abandoned her. But through all her devious plots and plans, she outsmarts herself and loses the only real home she's finally found love. You see, in walks her grandmother Nonnie (played by steelie-eyed Glenn Close), who has only recently discovered she has a granddaughter, just as everyone Gilly cares about is sick with the flu, leaving the home in a mess, and Nonnie is determine to rescue the daughter of her daughter. Also in the mix is Gilly's mother, who abandoned Gilly at a very young age and shows up briefly for Christmas.

Now, Kathy Bates overacts as a country-bumpkinish caring foster-care mom, but Octavia Spencer is smart as whip as the teacher who can't be fooled and Glenn Close is adept as the distant grandmother reaching out to connect with the daughter she never really had. Also fine in this cast is Bill Cobbs as Mr. Randolph, the blind older neighbor who shares his wisdom and compassion with a confused and rebellious youth desperately seeking love in all the wrong places. Sophie Nelisse provides that delicate vulnerability her character needs, which she was so good at showing us in The Book Thief.

Although the setting is current, The Great Gilly Hopkins has an old fashioned feel with themes and tones that last the test of time. It could have taken place at any time over the last 50 years and still been current. I predict this movie will still stand up in the next 50 years. The cars may look a little old by then, but there are few of them in the movie and your focus is really on the characters, which is what this story is really about.

The Great Gilly Hopkins is one of those movies where you don't watch for the dazzle, the scenery, or the action. You watch it for the emotional ride through the lives of the characters. See it! 

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