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Picking apart 'Pumpkin'

Friday, October 25, 2002

Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Writer-director Adam Larson Broder refuses to be pinned down when it comes to "Pumpkin." In the movie's press notes, he asks, "Is it sentimental or satirical, a melodrama or a farce? It's all of the above."


RATING: R for language, a scene of sexuality.

STARRING: Christina Ricci.

SHOWING AT: Oaks Theater.


Local movie showtimes


Just as the ungainly stepsisters couldn't squeeze their feet into Cinderella's glass slipper, "Pumpkin" cannot be shoehorned into a simple summary. On the surface, it's an unconventional love story about college senior Carolyn (Christina Ricci) and a mentally and physically challenged athlete named Pumpkin (Hank Harris) and if it makes you uneasy, well, that's the point.

Carolyn's sorority, in a transparent bid to win Sorority of the Year honors, adopts the Challenged Games as its off-campus charity. Carolyn is a popular, pert and self-absorbed blonde with a tennis-playing boyfriend and the mistaken notion that everything can and should be "beautiful and perfect."

After initially being frustrated and frightened by Pumpkin, Carolyn finds herself intrigued and attracted. But this pairing between mentor and athlete pleases no one, from Carolyn's boyfriend and her shallow Greek sisters to Pumpkin's smothering mother (Brenda Blethyn).

Everything's a joke and not a joke, the filmmakers say, but Carolyn's transformation and the "taboo" love are hard to swallow. With her Bette Davis eyes, Ricci is a remarkably expressive actress, but she's caught in an audacious movie that feels like the equivalent of a blender drink with one too many ingredients.

Should you laugh? Be horrified? Or admire its subversiveness? I'm still not sure.

Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.

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