Netflix Update No. 78: “The Magic of Belle Isle”

April 14, 2013



Sometimes it’s better to accept the plot of a movie and move on. The Magic of Belle Isle is a case in point.

This feel-good film, released in 2012, was written by Guy Thomas and directed by Rob Reiner. The story concerns Monte Wildhorn  (Morgan Freeman), who was once a successful author of novels about a cowboy named Jubal McLaws. Disappointments in his life have dried up his creativity, and he is spending a summer at a borrowed house in fictional Belle Isle (actually Greenwood Lake, N.Y.), where he plans to drink and be disagreeable.

Partly due to his Victorian manners, he grudgingly develops relationships with people in the neighborhood, including Charlotte O’Neil (Virginia Madsen) the attractive divorcee next door, and her three daughters.



Monte especially becomes engaged with Charlotte’s middle daughter, Finnegan (Emma Fuhrmann), for whom the concept of imagination is elusive. There is also an undisguised chemistry between Monte and Charlotte — an improbable couple by reason of their widely different ages.

In a side plot not wholly irrelevant to the main story, the O’Neil children are going through the pain of separation from their father — an issue that creates a great deal of tension between Charlotte and her oldest girl, Willow (Madeline Carroll).

There is also a sidebar concerning Monte’s positive influence on a mentally or emotionally challenged young man (Ash Christian) who likes to hop around town like a bunny.



If one wonders too hard about how Monte, who has no use of his left arm and leg, can manage to do all the things that go along with living alone, or how he can drink as much as he does and sober up enough to be a good neighbor … well, if wonders too hard about a lot of things in this story, one may miss the benefits of good acting by a talented cast, a visually pleasing presentation, and a little optimism about human nature.


2 Responses to “Netflix Update No. 78: “The Magic of Belle Isle””

  1. shoreacres Says:

    My goodness – I have just the person for this film. A friend of mine who broke both her right arm and left knee a few months ago finally is home, but it’s been amazing to watch her navigate her world without those limbs as she recovered.

    Now, her arm is back in shape. The leg? Not so much. But she’s getting around, and I have a feeling the optimism you mention in this one may do her some good.

  2. […] Netflix Update No. 78: “The Magic of Belle Isle” […]

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