Friday, March 13, 2009

Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (Jim Abrahams, 1990)

Viewed more times than Killer Klowns from Outer Space and Valley Girl combined, the wonderfully hokey Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael is the most watched movie in my celluloid arsenal. At the moment, I'm not quite sure why I continue to bask in its pinkish glory at an alarmingly rate. (I'd say I've watched it at least twice a year since 1992.) I hope, well, in the next few paragraphs, anyway, to shed some much needed light on the inexplicable phenomenon that is me and this movie. The most obvious reason I find myself repeatedly returning to the town of Clyde, Ohio can be summed up by two simple words: "Winona" and "Ryder." However, that can't be the only reason. I mean, she's appeared in lot's of movies, and I don't, for example, watch Mr. Deeds on an annual basis (once was plenty enough). No, there has to be something else beyond Winona, and, not to mention, Thomas Newman's effervescent music score and Ava Fabian's wet naked bum exiting a swimming pool in slow-motion. Teen angst, the most potent of cinematic elixirs, has to be one of the deciding factors.

The appeal of watching disaffected adolescents yammer and complain has always been a weakness of mine, and in the freak-friendly figure of Dinky Bossetti, I think may have found my patron saint. The diminutive outsider with the healthy penchant for black clothing is so outside the mainstream, that kids hurl rocks at her as she rides down the tree-lined streets of her inconsequential, under-deodorized armpit of a town. And on top of that, she gets scolded and mocked for reciting erotic poetry in class.

As you would expect, I was quite taken by this extreme form of collective ostracism. The residents shun her because she's different, much like they did the titular Roxy Carmichael fifteen years ago.

Except, Dinky isn't different in an obnoxious way. Unlike the so-called weirdos who pretend to be depressed and cool nowadays, she doesn't buy her grim wardrobe at chichi boutiques or insipid chain stores. Uh-uh. She brings a genuine punk aesthetic to her ghoulish style. In that, she wears whatever she finds. I distinctly remember being rather taken by Dinky's do-it-yourself approach to late twentieth century goth fashion, and recall employing many of her techniques.

The dichotomy between Dinky Bossetti's black motif and the frothy pink of Roxy Carmichael was also integral to the film's charm. Take, for instance, the scene where Dinky explores the bedroom of Roxy's old house (which has been turned into a museum), the sight of the morbidly attired teen poking around the aggressively pink confines of that particular room provided quite the contrast in styles. This commingling of contradictory colours was definitely a major influence on me. Actually, I think I just hit the nail on the head.

You see, the colours black and pink are the only two colours that are both revered by the heterosexual and homosexual communities. And since I've always seen myself as an arbitrator between the two distinctive groups, that means Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael is responsible for developing a good chunk of my world famous personality. (I think just blew my own mind a little bit.)

Eye-rolling her way into the gooey confines my fickle heart like a disgruntled rash, Winona Ryder is the main reason this film manages to succeed on any normal level (I'm sorry Jeff Daniels, but your moping just isn't cutting it). The pale actress from Winona, Minnesota imbues her Dinky with enough teen-based frustration to last twenty life times.

Paired with, what has to be, the most unconventional leading man of her career, Winona has terrific chemistry with the floppy-haired Thomas Wilson Brown. Whether they were talking about the gaps in his teeth or pining while Melissa Etheridge wailed in the background, I found their scenes together to be weirdly compelling.

Sporting one of the most subtle lesbian subplots in Hollywood history (it was so subtle, that I don't think I even noticed it until my fifth viewing), I love the same sex relationship between the bitter Evelyn (Dinah Manoff) and a cutie named Libby (Sachi Parker). Actually, I thought Dinky and the lithesome guidance counselor were on the cusp of making out a couple times as well. So, let's see, make that two subtle lesbian subplots, two Melissa Etheridge songs, and an actress named "Manoff." Wow, this film is more Sappho than two doily dykes necking at a Cinémathèque screening of Mädchen in Uniform.

The supporting cast is rife with so many familiar faces, that not a day goes by without spotting one of them in something or another. The ubiquitous Stephen Tobolowsky bookends the film nicely with his trademark dorky charm as Clyde's mayor, Graham Beckel is great as Dinky's sympathetic dad, Frances Fisher makes stacking carpet samples seem sexy as Dinky's indifferent mother (I loved the unabashed womanliness of her physique), and Heidi Swedberg (Susan from Seinfeld) displays an unhinged quality as a hurried tailor.

Proving that I've matured slightly when it comes to ogling actresses, I was pleasantly surprised by how tantalizing I found Laila Robins to be in this film. I mean, I always thought her character was attractive and stuff, but there was clearly something different about her as I gazed upon her this time around.

Playing Elizabeth Zaks, the aforementioned guidance counselor who befriends Dinky, Miss Robins brings a dignified professionalism to the proceedings, and of course, some much needed legginess. Which I can't believe I didn't notice the other gazillion time I watched this, her legs, that is. I guess, like every other sane person, my focus was on Winona's performance.

Anyway, utilizing my newfangled predilections and curiosities, my revisiting of this film was, as expected, a resounding success.

video uploaded by DinkyDean23


  1. Hey, Yum. :) When I was in my early teens I so desperately wanted to have a room as black as Dinky's -- that never happened, though. I love how innocent, stubborn and free-spirited she is and how kindly she treats her little animal friends. This was one of the most watched films of my childhood, but it's been many, many years since the last time I saw it. Winona Ryder is the ultimate teenage rebellion heroine, and I pray to heavens that her career is facing a Robert-Downey-Jr.-style resurrection.

  2. There is something so watchable about this movie, I really can't put into words as well as you did in your spot on review.

    It's also the kind the film that can be viewed at any time of the day, I myself prefer really early in the morning for some reason. Something about it's themes of alienation maybe and the quiet time before the bustle of this city are the closest i'll get to dinky's small town world.

    Thank you for being a fan a fan of this largely ignored gem!


  3. Johnny Rico: I think it's freaking adorable that you desperately wanted to have a room like Dinky's. It's too bad it never happened. :( (I hear black carpet is impossible to find).

    Oh, and yes, a Robert-Downey-Jr.-style resurrection for Winona's career would be quite welcome around my household.

    Cinema Du Meep: Totally. The film is so watchable, it hurts.

    Early morning, eh? I tend to view it at 2AM. Which I guess is sort of early morning.

  4. Hey Yum. Great post. I really enjoyed the write-up and pics from this movie. Wow. You definitely really dig this movie. I've only seen it once. I saw it when it first hit video. I don't remember much about it. I'll have to check it out again soon. Have a good week. Cheers!

  5. Thanks, Keith. Yeah, I really like this movie. It's like tainted crack to me.

  6. I have never seen this movie. Don't know why...I've seen just about everything else in the Winona-in-her-prime era, even Mermaids!

    Great colo(u)r analysis!

    Winona's in the new Star Trek?!?!

  7. Never seen it, eh? Well, WBRC was actually the first Winona movie I ever saw (yep, even before Heathers).

    Thanks. Dinky's pink dress and black combat boots ensemble on the film's poster was a big influence on me.

    Speaking of Winona in Star Trek, Jennifer Morrison's character in the reboot is named Winona Kirk.

  8. I remember when I was in high school and my day dresses were all black on black on black, I was a total goth, and one of my philosophy teachers told me I look like Dinky, and that was the first time I watched that movie! Oh.. memories... She was the absolute it-girl during the late 80's, ah? Gorgeous!

  9. I am so much like Dinky that I tripped out when I happined across the show while staying at a hotel back in like 92 or so.