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Beautiful Girls Review

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A piano player unsure about the choices in his life returns home to his family and friends to take stock.

★★★★

Following the wave of bubbling, group-hug chick-flicks earlier in the year, this is an emotionally charged chum movie from the bloke's perspective: sort of a male Now And Then with Demme defying all the odds with a gently entertaining charmer.

For bar pianist Hutton, thoughts of a steady job and marriage to Annabeth Gish (Mystic Pizza) are inducing palpitations. So when his high school reunion conveniently fudges the issue, he hotfoots it to snowy Knight's Ridge. Still ensconced in his hometown are four childhood friends - Dillon's ex-campus superstar turned snow plough driver, his sidekick Kev (Max Perlich), family man Mo (Noah Emmerich) and supermodel obsessed Paul (Michael Rapaport) - and in their company, he's more confused than ever.

Many so-called ensemble pieces provide little more than a host of unknowns backing one or two minor stars, but this is a rare and worthy exception. With no one big enough to swamp matters, the familiar cast convince by gelling instantly into a group of old friends. No small credit goes to Mira Sorvino as Dillon's loyal and long-suffering girlfriend, Holly as his self-centred ex, and Uma Thurman as bartender Stinky's (Priutt Taylor Vince) cousin and girl.

Hutton makes for a winning guide through this unassuming take on camaraderie and adult responsibility, but the stand out is Natalie Portman, who adds to a reputation well-earned in Leon, as a smart, beguiling 13-year-old.

This film really succeeds with its warm treatment of ordinary hang-ups - no life-shattering revelations or pain repressed since childhood, just the genuine, everyday trials of life.

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