Netflix Update No. 91: “Carolina”

June 9, 2014



I suppose when we search for movie based on the fact that Shirley MacLaine is in the cast, we should be prepared for almost anything. And I suppose that’s what we got when we found the 2003 film Carolina in which MacLaine stars with Julia Stiles and Alessandro Nivola. This was a $15-million property, but Miramax never released it to theaters. After sitting on the movie for two years the distributor abruptly released it directly to DVD in 2005.



The story, written by Katherine Fugate, uses a well-exercised premise in which a character who seems to live within the strike zone has close ties to her family who are well outside the foul lines if not beyond the left-field wall. Stiles plays Carolina Mirabeau — so called because her gadabout dad, Ted (Randy Quaid)  always named his kids after the states in which he happened to launch their conception. Carolina has a job handling the contestants on a TV dating-game show. She also has an inexplicably poor track record in her own dating game, despite being smart, witty, and gorgeous. A relationship with a rich Briton named Heath Pierson (Edward Atterton) seems more promising than most of Carolina’s liaisons, and it is a critical ingredient in this film, and not only because Pierson, an unlikely contestant on the garish dating show, inadvertently costs Carolina her job. The only intimacy Carolina seems to enjoy consistently is of the platonic sort, involving her charismatic neighbor, Albert Morris, played by Nivola. Morris earns his living by writing romantic novels under a female pseudonym.



Carolina, and ultimately her sisters, Georgia and Maine, were raised by Millicent Mirabeau, Ted’s mother and their grandmother. Millicent is the kind of role a screenwriter would create for vintage ’03 MacLaine if there were only an hour to spare. Millicent lives on the outskirts of the city, figuratively and literally, consorts with whatever odd sorts she takes a shine to and says and does whatever she damn well pleases. You know: Shirley MacLaine. Carolina loves Millicent and often spends time with her, and Millicent has her own ideas about how Carolina should live and particularly whom Carolina should marry. At Millicent’s demand, an outdoor Thanksgiving dinner takes place at her house for her family and a colorful cast of extras, including the only mildly colorful Albert. When Carolina insists that the venue be moved to her apartment one year, there are both predictable and revealing results. This movie is worthwhile for the characters and the performances, but the story is implausible in many regards, the juxtaposition of the uber and under strata of LA society doesn’t seem to have a clear purpose, and the conclusion relies on a turn of events that I would characterize as the easy way out — for the writer if not for the character involved.


One Response to “Netflix Update No. 91: “Carolina””

  1. shoreacres Says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever come across baseball metaphors in a review, other than the overused “home run.” I probably never will watch this film, unless it happens by accident, but I certainly enjoyed the review — which seems to be well within the strike zone.

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