By Megan Bianco

In an era in which movements such as #metoo and Time’s Up are now common and a part of the everyday life narrative, concepts such as “separating the art from the artist” are also now more difficult than ever. When the Harvey Weinstein scandals jump-started #metoo back in 2017, his name began tainting hundreds of movies as a producer and studio head. One specific film I keep thinking back to whenever this subject is brought up is Ted Demme’s romantic comedy Beautiful Girls (1996).

The moderate hit takes place in a small town in Massachusetts during the weekend of a high school reunion for five longtime friends—played by Timothy Hutton, Matt Dillon, Michael Rapaport, Max Perlich and Noah Emmerich; along with the women in their lives, played by Mira Sorvino, Uma Thurman, Natalie Portman, Martha Plimpton and Lauren Holly. Throughout the film, we see the usual, feel-good tropes in date movies, though slightly cruder, to remind us that this R-rated romcom is more about the dudes than the chicks.

Since 1996, Beautiful Girls appears to have been cursed with some seriously unlucky coincidences over the years. Besides being produced by Miramax Films when it was run by the Weinstein Bros., male lead Hutton was accused of rape in March 2020; Rapaport pled guilty to harassing ex-girlfriend Lili Taylor in 1997; and most of the women in the cast have since gone public with their own personal stories of being victimized by sexual misconduct. Although honestly, even if any of these unfortunate connections didn’t exist, I don’t think the film would have aged all that well.

Some of the dialog now feels artificial and faux-sophisticated. In particular, Portman’s dialog makes it jarringly obvious the script was written by a man in his mid-30s—Scott Rosenberg—trying to make it sound like a 13-year-old girl. And yet, I somehow still have a soft spot for Beautiful Girls nearly 25 years later. I think appreciating Beautiful Girls for what it is really only works if you have a nostalgic memory of enjoying it when you were younger and more innocent.

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