Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday at The Movies: "Felicity: An American Girl Adventure", 2005

Felicity in all her breeches-wearing, horseback-riding awesomeness.

I apologize that this post is backposted--I've been having some health issues the past two days (probably due to the snow/weather we've had to endure in my neck of the wood), so I haven't been super active online. This week's movie is--as mentioned in the update--Felicity: An American Girl Adventure. The made-for-tv-movie is based off the Felicity: An American Girl doll and childrens' book series. I actually am the proud owner of Felicity and her book series since age 13 (at that age because: we were broke, I was learning fiscal responsibility, took me over two years to save the 190 something dollars I needed. Glad I did though--Felicity is my favorite :-D).

Felicity Merriman is the Colonial American doll of the series, and she loves horses and being outside in the Williamsburg, Virginia countryside. At the age of ten, she is just reaching adolescence when the American Revolution is at its start. Her father encourages her to have her own opinions while her mother wishes for her to find her place in society. The slightly older but in no way mature apprentice at her father's shop, Benjamin Davidson, is eager to join up with the patriots (perhaps too eager) and fight for liberty. All the while, Felicity struggles to manage a new friendship with Elizabeth Cole, a girl whose family are Loyalists and have the opposite views of her own family. And to top it off, there is a bitter, violent old man who has come into possession of a magnificent copper-colored thouroughbred who Felicity wishes to befriend and ride more than anything in the world...

Review/Breakdown under the cut: click for More...

Marcia Gay Harden's role as Mrs. Merriman was a perfect 10 on the casting director's part.
1. Casting for this movie was excellent. They not only got two extremely renown actors to play Felicity's parents (John Schneider and Marcia Gay Harden) and adorable heartthrob of Transamerica fame Kevin Zegers to play Ben, but also launched the career of a young Shailene Woodley who shined in the role of Felicity--she truly looked and played the character perfectly. Woodley has gone on to star in the critically-acclaimed ABC Family original series Secret Life of the American Teenager as Amy Juergen, a demanding role in which Woodley conveys the trials and revelations of being a teenage mother. To sum up, this movie gets 5/5 for its cast.

Felicity in a summer dress on her grandfather's plantation.
2. Costume and Set was specific to the time period, and the sets were wonderfully put together in Colonial Williamsburg, making it all seem very authentic and natural. Seeing Felicity's gorgeous blue dancing gown for the Governor's ball and all the clothes I had read about or dressed my doll in suddenly appear on the screen in living color and vibrant textiles was a real treat. I should add that props, furniture and even the items in Mr. Merriman's shop were treated very historically--while this is a made-for-tv-movie targeted to young girls, the design crew didn't slack off. They did their research, which I appreciate since the AG books really center around education about history and the like. FYI: If you are an enthusiast of period costume or 18th century fashion elements (as in, you enjoy the more Rococo-inspired side of lolita fashion for example), you will love it. 5/5

The movie touches on--as does the book--gender issues in Colonial America, as well as political issues.
3. Adaptation I'm giving 4/5, which is more than I would give the Samantha film and here's why: Samantha's movie, while wonderful and heartwarming, chose to focus on the books Meet Samantha, Samantha's Surprise, and Changes for Samantha, all of which are low on the action side, making her movie a bit slow and its script a bit forced whereas Felicity's movie is based on scenarios from all of her books, with a focus on those containing the most action like Felicity Saves the Day, hence Samantha's movie was An American Girl Holiday while Felicity's is an Adventure. This made it so much more flowing and allowed the action to rise and fall much nicer. The one issue I had with the movie literally covering ALL the books is it tends to go too fast at points, cutting rapidly from season to season and plot point to plot point which is why I give it 4/5 overall. Their choices, however, did allow us to see Felicity grow as a character, working through expressing political opinions, family tragedies, and various social situations.

Miss Manderly (younger in the film than in the books) teaches Felicity the art of being a gracious hostess and homemaker--including tea ceremony, formal dance, as well as sewing and embroidery.
4. Music was period and appropriate for the place and time, particular noticeable during the dance lessons at Miss Manderly's and at the Governor's Ball later on. Incidental music and score was also very fitting and used sparingly as it should have been. 5/5

Felicity hears the hard facts of life from her wise father. She often faces personal tragedies and turmoils beyond her years.
5. The Message: since this movie is based off a book series that seeks to educate and empower young women, it's only fitting that I should hold the film to the same standard. In my opinion, the film adaptation (while rushed a tad) does pick out the key "moral" scenarios from the book and plays them through without excessive melodrama as is common in movies for younger audiences. Felicity is still a wonderfully balanced heroine--she isn't totally a tomboy and she isn't a total girly-girl: she is a pleasant mix of cheerful determination and exuberance alongside dignity and grace. She can be selfish but ultimately puts what is right above what is easy--even if she has to borrow Ben's breeches and run off in drag to do it. Furthermore, the movie retains the messages that mercy is more important than revenge, friendship more important than war, and that being true to yourself is far more important than following decorum. If these important messages from the books failed to surface, I'd be pretty upset. Since they are there, 5/5.
Total Score: 24/25

Final Verdict: Though Samantha's movie was first and quite well-done as well, I would say Felicity's movie was much more effective in its narrative and its emotional realism. It's the kind of kid's movie an adult would also enjoy without enduring the feeling their intelligence was being insulted. For those who babysit or have young kids, this movie is age appropriate while not placing its audience in a comfort bubble (i.e., deals with real issues, but is tons of fun). While I wished the movie jumped around less (I would've easily welcomed another whole 30 minutes of movie over the rapidity), I am very pleased at that adaptation of my favorite AG doll's books to film. Fun, heartfelt and charming, this one's definitely a winner.

---------quick sidenote! I made LJ/forum user-icons from stills of the movie, free usage. Just credit me (beata-beatrixx) in the "comments" part of where the icon posts on your lj-user image page:

(All 159 here on my old photobucket).

2 comments/comment?:

Not quite beautiful said...

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beata-beatrixx said...

Thank you!