That’s as good as it gets, though, since the characters remain closely tethered to the surface symbols defining them. A whirling dervish in a red-leather miniskirt, Kirshner is handed some temporary humility by a handsome Native lad (Adam Beach), but her whining selfishness proves unbearable.
It’s hammered home that bad-mother Dale keeps all her buttons tight thanks to her unfeeling family, but we never glimpse the qualities that make her a good teacher (she’s up for a gig at Harvard) or even an interesting person. Harrison drinks, womanizes, and wears bad ties because, well, that’s what poets do.
Equal automotive blame belongs to Behrens, who hurls this initially attractive vehicle straight into a no-escape bog, and Kendall, who asks too little of the always-reliable Dale and far too much of young Kirshner — no one should have to pout, scream and cry this much.
Former MOW hunk Harrison, here going by the “Simpsons”-esque name of Sam LaRiviere, is just about right, and smaller roles are well handled, with John Goodman lookalike Mike Crimp a standout as the town’s jolly, bagpipe-puffing cop.
Regional lensing is exceptionally good, although marred somewhat by substandard editing and dull, TV-predictable music.
A Cineplex Odeon Films Canada Release (Canada) of an Imagex Ltd. production, in association with Orca Productions Ltd./Telefilm Canada/NFB/Nova Scotia Film Development Corp./The Movie Network. (Intl. sales: Saban International Inc., Burbank). Produced by Nicholas Kendall, Christopher Zimmer, Christian Bruyere. Directed by Nicholas Kendall. Screenplay, Peter Behrens.
Camera (color), Glen McKenna; costume design, Lin Chapman; sound, Paul Sharpe. Reviewed at the Seattle Film Festival, June 1, 1993. Running time: 96 MIN.
Sally ... Jennifer Dale
Page ... Mia Kirshner
Sam ... Gregory Harrison
Will ... Adam Beach
Aunt Grace ... Anna Cameron
Donald ... Mike Crimp
Also with: Benita Ha, Nancy Marsh, Deborah Allen, Ronald Bourgeois, Martha Irving, Morrissey Dunn, Rachel Clark, Carmen Diges.
Another addition to the growing catalogue of blame-the-career-woman pics, this soft-edged family saga will seem overly familiar to CBC-saturated auds, and not exotic enough for Americans. After a brief cable life, "Cadillac Girls" could move on to European and Japanese markets, where maritime settings may hold fresh appeal.
Title refers to the yellow convertible left behind by college prof Jennifer Dale when she departed Nova Scotia for Berkeley's sunnier climes. Its backseat is where now grown-daughter Mia Kirshner was conceived, and after many meller-mixups involving their strained relationship, this very literal deus ex machina becomes central to bringing them back together. Another passenger is Scotch-guzzling poetry prof Gregory Harrison, who doesn't much care which woman is driving.
Scripter Peter Behrens starts off well enough, with mother and daughter wittily locking horns -- teenage Kirshner's been picked up for auto theft and says, "This should interest you, mother ... at least intellectually"-- just as Dale is called back to Canada by her own father's death. The bicoastal transplant also intrigues, since helmer Nicholas Kendall establishes their straitlaced, one-horse Nova Scotia town with a former documaker's eye.