Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Overlooked Movies: Dear Eleanor (2016)

I had never heard of this 2016 movie, but it turned out to be a pretty good coming of age/road trip yarn set in 1962. Two 15-year-old girls, played by Liana Liberato and Isabelle Fuhrmann (never heard of them, either) take off across the country from California to New York on a quest to meet Eleanor Roosevelt. A year or so earlier, the mother of Liberato’s character was supposed to introduce Roosevelt at some talk but was killed in a car wreck on the way there. The daughter decides the only way to deal with her grief is to find Roosevelt and deliver the introduction her mother never got to. Her oddball best friend is more than willing to go along for the ride.

Of course, this being a road trip movie, funny things happen along the way and they run into eccentric characters, including a surprisingly sympathetic escaped convict (Josh Lucas) and a washed-up showgirl (Jessica Alba). Meanwhile, Liberato’s father (Luke Wilson), who’s had trouble dealing with grief himself, has discovered that the girls have run off and is on their trail. And when the girls finally wind up at Eleanor Roosevelt’s home in New York, they don’t find what they’re expecting.

DEAR ELEANOR is a pretty predictable movie, but that doesn’t lessen its charm. The acting is pretty good all around, the script is funny at times and poignant at others, and the filmmakers do a good job of capturing the early Sixties era, touching on the death of Marilyn Monroe, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and other assorted stuff that I remember from when it really happened. There may be some anachronisms in the film, but I didn’t spot them. Of course, I wasn’t really looking for them, either.

This isn’t the sort of movie we normally watch, but I enjoyed it quite a bit anyway. It’s clean enough, and has such an innocence to it, that it almost could have been made in 1962, with, say, Hayley Mills in the lead role, Patty Duke as the friend, and Dean Jones as the dad. Those of you of a certain age ought to get what I’m talking about. It’s a nice little bit of Americana, and I’m glad we watched it.

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