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  Miss Meadows Good Manners Cost Nothing
Year: 2014
Director: Karen Leigh Hopkins
Stars: Katie Holmes, James Badge Dale, Callan Mulvey, Jean Smart, Mary Kay Place, Ava Kolker, Stephen Bishop, Kate Linder, James Landry Hébert, James Keane, Graham Beckel, Gregory Allen Smith, Anna Moravcik, Tyler Corbet, Milly Hopkins, Harry Zinn
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Miss Meadows (Katie Holmes) strolls along the pavement, smiling to the bluebird in the tree above and the family of deer who cross the street in front of her, taking the opportunity to break into a tap dance since she always wears tap shoes, it’s such a lovely day. Or it is until a man pulls up alongside her in his truck and asks her what she’s reading, she replies poetry and he responds that he has a poem for her, then proceeds to recite a lewd doggerel and produce a gun, demanding she get into the passenger seat. What he doesn’t bank on is Miss Meadows being armed as well: she takes out her small pistol from her handbag and shoots this would-be attacker in the neck, killing him almost instantly. Then she continues happily on her way…

It’s a curious world Miss Meadows inhabits, at once comforting and ragingly paranoid, with those two elements crossing paths regularly. For writer and director Karen Leigh Hopkins, this was apparently the way she had seen modern America go, with its essentially conservative values challenged at every turn by those who had no concept of common decency and would upset the applecart of restraint and politeness and respect all for the sake of selfishly satisfying their own base desires. Yet the result of this was not anarchy, it was not a police state clamping down on anyone who stepped out of line, it was a barely negotiable tightrope walk between the two, with more than one person tumbling to their doom when they couldn’t balance above the lack of a safety net. Our title character thinks she has his all worked out, but as the plot drew on it was clearer she was one of the mad ones.

If this sounds thematically confusing, imagine what it was like to watch, as Miss Meadows appeared to be representative of so many aspects that she never came across as a real individual, more a character for the writer to pin a bunch of issues onto. If you wanted a thriller about a dainty schoolmarm who took to the mean streets of her town (where conveniently for the plot “two thousand” dangerous criminals have been given early release from prison thanks to overcrowding) and blew away the baddies with her handgun then that’s not really what you had in store, as while there was a part of that to the movie, a lot more of it was wrapped up in fumbling towards some kind of conclusion about what a virtuous person can do about the evils of society.

If it was aware of the irony that turning to murder was not much of an answer, then it was difficult to discern the satirical intent, as Hopkins kept a poker face throughout, leaving you wondering if she was serious or if she was scoring points against various emblematic folks, no matter which side of the moral divide they were on. Miss Meadows was better at tap dancing than she was at wrestling with these thorny issues, though she did stumble across crimes, often in progress, with alarming regularity, as if she was the last bastion against America’s quaint communities being corrupted by evildoers; she certainly is aware of the statistics to endorse her capital punishment on the spot approach to lawbreakers. But Hopkins could not resist preventing the viewer regarding her heroine at face value.

She becomes romantically involved with the local Sheriff (James Badge Dale) who almost arrests her – for stopping to remove a toad from the path of her car, but soon they are picnicking and eventually having sex which at least answers the question of what someone that prim would be like in that situation (the answer being, she giggles throughout and keeps her clothes on). Soon, as Miss Meadows seems to be linked to the murders of child molesters and would-be rapists the Sheriff cannot deny that this woman of his dreams may be Charles Bronson in a floral print dress, all the more uneasy for him when she is a teacher of small children and as such is their protector, which could be seen as justification through prevention rather than theoretically closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, i.e. arrest, sentence and imprisonment. Yet while this seems like some right wing fantasy of justice, Hopkins insisted on analysing her protagonist’s obvious mental health problems too, so there was an interesting idea here, but quite what it was resided stubbornly in the author’s mind. Music by Jeff Cardoni.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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