directed by Michael Ritchie (1975)
I’d hate to spend this whole review comparing the small town pageant comedy Smile to the best of Robert Altman, which it so clearly drew inspiration from, so I’ll just say this: while it has the flavor of the fly on the wall film making which makes films like Nashville and Short Cuts among my most favorite, it does fall short.
Still it boasts a great cast, that no only includes Violet Beauregard (from Willie Wonka!), a young topless Melanie Griffith and Annette O’Toole and Kate Sarchet as extremely natural and likable contestants in the Young Miss pageant. You’ve also got Bruce Dern!
“Dernsie”, as we fans like to call him at first seems to be playing to type as a sleazy car salesman but he bucks his creepy type casting to play a decidedly optimistic man who fails to see anything negative (even if it hits him in the face) and lives for the joy of the annual pageant he judges.
Smile is often funny – the unusual “talents” like packing a suit case and thinly veiled stripping stand out, but it turns dark with the subplot of the town drunk and plays with themes of suburban ennui, adolescence, and the American Dream – like a good old American novel from the era.
It’s available to watch on Netflix and might just be worth a viewing for all the period maxi dresses and feathered hair.
Posted on August 13, 2012