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Outside Providence

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Outside Providence

Starring: Shawn Hatosy, Alec Baldwin
Director: Michael Corrente
Rated: R
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: September 1999
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: George Wendt, Jonathan Brandis, Tommy Bone, Jack Ferver, Amy Smart, Gabriel Mann, Jon Abrahams

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Of all the coming-of-age films released this year, the premise of this one intrigued me the most. I went to prep school in the mid-fifties--not the sleepaway sort depicted in "Outside Providence" but nonetheless one with a similar setup--and could identify in at least one way with the 17-year- old narrator. Peter Ferrelly's novel, "Outside Providence," made into a screenplay by director Michael Corriente and Ferrelly's brother Bobby, spotlights Tim Dunphy (Shawn Hatosy), a lad from a working-class family who attends public schools until he completes junior year in the shabby town of Pawtucket RI, and is then sent against his will to a prep school in a lovely area of Connecticut. Like Tim, I was from a similar background and somehow wound up in a private Brooklyn high school situated just across from the rolling hills of the country's busiest golf course. And like Tim I had to find a way of fitting in with my classmates, the large majority of whom were from the upper middle class. While my folks owned a small, neighborhood, women's wear shop, the guys in my class were the sons of corporate executives who freely brought stock certificates to class as part of their economics projects while I had only ladies' stockings to exhibit from my folks' little business.

Though in some ways the young hero of "Outside Providence" had a more difficult time than I--his dad barely knew what a college was, had only an inkling of the meaning of prep school, and gambled on the kitchen card table rather than on chips available on Wall Street--his 1970s Connecticut school, Cornwall Academy, was quite a bit more democratic than mine. For ome, many appear to be from ethnic and religious minorities. More important, not a single one of these comfortably-situated boys could in fairness be labeled a snob, so that Tim was not a fish out of water after all. When he shows up the first day on campus with his faded jeans jacket, an altogether preppie-looking Jack Wheeler (Gabriel Mann) takes him aside and sets him up with the standard uniform of blazer and tie before that initial auditorium presentation. When the young woman of every guy's fantasy, the intelligent, blond knockout Jane Weston (Amy Smart) takes a liking to Tim, she may have felt that somehow this working-class lad could be more fun than the more polished twits in the school--just as Rose DeWitt Bukater must have felt about Jack Dawson in James Cameron's movie "Titanic."

"Outside Providence" considers the adventures of Tim Dunphy--in some ways a stand-in for both novelist Peter Farrelly and co-writer Michael Corriente when they were youngsters. The boy grows up quite a bit in that year while at the same time missing his less fortunate buddies back home in Pawtucket. In short, while he is moving on to broader horizons, he's the sort that will never forget where he came from. The movie opens on Tim (affectionately nicknamed Dildo by his dad) and his pals, who like all other kids during the seventies smoked, got high and got into some trouble. In one episode, Tim's pal Drugs Delaney (Jon Abrahams) crashes his truck into a cop car. All are booked for possession of weed. Through the judge's connections, Tim is sent to a boarding school with the proviso that he will avoid serving time if he graduates. While his dad continues to play cards with his own friends, who include George Wendt in the all-too-brief role of Joey (who surprises the group with an announcement all-too-honest for the time), Tim meets the classy Jane Weston, who effectively challenges Tim to study hard and makes the boy realize that "getting more beaver than the Hoover Dam" is not the prime consideration when you really like the girl.

If you come to the film expecting a Farrelly idiot-piece like "Dumb and Dumber" or a flat-out vulgar "There's Something About Mary," you'll be pleasantly surprised to observe just how sweet the Farrelly Brothers can be when they are adapting a novel composed before "Mary" entered their minds. "Outside Providence" is a sweet, poignant, wholly effective story that does not depend on a sit-coming joke-a- minute format, but credibly exhibits the love that a gruff father has for his son, a love that he would have considered anything but macho to admit openly--until he engages in some serious discussions with his newly-mature boy. Alec Baldwin plays against type as a rough, somewhat hoarse blue-collar representative who scarcely knows what he has missed in life as his thoughts rarely extended beyond his little neighborhood in a decaying Rhode Island town. As the film's center, Shawn Hatosy ("The Faculty," "Anything But Here," "Inventing the Abbots") is convincing and ultimately moving as a lad who finds true love, comes to terms with his father, and manages to glide smoothly between two different worlds.

Coming of age movies are not an infrequent occurrence in cinema these days. The indie films at Sundance have been pushing them for a while now. But "Outside Providence" is among the most sincere and touching entries in recent years.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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