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A Little Princess

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: A Little Princess

Starring: Liesel Matthews, Liam Cunningham
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Rated: G
RunTime: 98 Minutes
Release Date: May 1995
Genres: Drama, Family, Kids

*Also starring: Eleanor Bron, Rusty Schwimmer, Arthur Malet, Vanessa Lee Chester, Errol Sitahal, Heather DeLoach, Taylor Fry, Vincent Schiavelli

Review by Brian Koller
3 stars out of 4

"A Little Princess" is a fantasy targeted to young girls, of about the age of ten. This means that adult males whose notion of a great movie is watching Clint Eastwood get the bad guys (sometimes that can be my idea of a great movie as well) will likely find the film to be unwatchable.

If you watch a film for action, "A Little Princess" is painfully slow. But if you are looking for emotion, the film delivers the goods: privilege, injustice, revenge, liberation, generosity, and suffering are among the themes. While the entire plot could be condensed into an episode of "Wishbone", the story merely provides a vehicle for displaying the intense emotions that a little girl can feel.

The story is familiar, because it has been done before. The original is from the children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. There were four earlier cinematic versions, including a silent from 1917. The most famous version is a Shirley Temple vehicle from 1939, which is almost but not quite as good.

Sara (Liesel Matthews) is a young girl dotingly raised in India by her wealthy and widowed father. He must fight in World War I, and he places her in a New York boarding school run by the intimidating Miss Minchin (Eleanor Bron). Sara becomes very popular, earning the jealousy of schoolmate Amelia (Rusty Schwimmer). However, Sara's father is killed in the war and his assets are siezed. Her tuition cannot be paid, and she is forced into servitude, much to the pleasure of Minchin and Amelia. But a magical Indian servant (Errol Sitahal) takes an interest in her fortunes.

Bron has the best role, in the fine tradition of Louise Fletcher from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". She dislikes the independent Sara, but tolerates her as long as the bills are paid. When Sara can no longer afford tuition, Bron dresses her in black, steals her possessions and relegates her to the attic. This isn't all bad, as Sara is now able to be with the shunned black servant girl, and can show her generosity by buying flowers from street beggars (it only becomes generous when you are nearly a beggar yourself).

The sets, such as World War I battlefields and New York alleys, are well done although the budget requires them to be small in scale. The magical Indian is present to validate Sara's childish fantasy stories, and to make plausible the incredible coincidences behind the reuniting of father and daughter.

Copyright 1995 Brian Koller

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