Matilda (1996)

(In French, On TV, March 2017) on the one hand, Matilda is a good-natured story in which an adorable little girl manages to overthrow oppression and find true motherly love. It has a unique comic sensibility, great use of narration, a quasi-whimsical feeling and a strong performance by Mara Wilson, with a just-as-likable turn by Embeth Davidtz. Director Danny DeVito occasionally inches close to Tim Burtonesque territory in the way he’s willing to twist reality into an impressionistic version of itself. On the other hand—and I’ll acknowledge that this may be an idiosyncratic reaction—I have a really hard time with child abuse stories these days, especially when the targets of the abuse are young girls. For all of Matilda’s heartwarming ending, whimsical moments and sense that the heroine is never really in jeopardy, I was never quite able to open up to the film. The emotional abuse of a bright kid ignored by ungrateful adults (including parents) is almost too much to bear and that feeling never quite went away during the movie, stopping me from enjoying it all that much. This is one of those films that may be best appreciated upon re-watched, confident in how it’s going to turn out.

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