24-year-old Carla Tate is physically challenged but returning home from her residential school she wants to get on with a normal life, overcoming her family's ill-informed over-protectiveness to try and build a relationship with Danny
Eschewing the fairytale fluff of Runaway Bride, Garry Marshall here navigates more serious romantic territory. Actually made before Bride, Marshall's second lovefest in as many months may be darker, but at least in this bittersweet romantic drama, his lead couple have done more than just show up.
Returning from full board at a special needs school, 24-year-old Carla Tate (Lewis) has a few modest ambitions: go to college, get a job, find an apartment, and perhaps fall in love one day, too. There are, inevitably, problems - though Carla's greatest obstacle lies not in her disability, but with her over-protective mother (Keaton). And as much as the story has Carla's tentative, touching relationship with the similarly handicapped Danny (Ribisi) at its heart, it's also about her battle for independence and respect from her ill-informed and unprepared family.
The danger with this sort of material is that the viewer may feel compelled to afford the film the same degree of compassion as the mentally-impaired characters themselves. However, this is just a film - and the facts are these: Lewis and Ribisi are outstanding, giving difficult characterisations depth and dignity; Keaton and Skerritt are fine in their parental caricatures; and Marshall regular Hector Elizondo slips easily into his usual fatherly support role.
The screenplay is sensitive and well-informed in places, hollow and contrived in others, and in such moments, Marshall does his leads no justice. The overall result is a well-played romantic drama, but one that works only if you refrain from questioning convention overmuch - an ironic reversal of the message this film is seemingly trying to promote.
A touching romance with sincere performances, although a little contrived in places.