Picks and Pans Review: My American Cousin

UPDATED 09/08/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/08/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

You might fear the worst about this $1.5 million (the low budget means no stars) Canadian film. Yes, it is another meditation on youth coming of age. And yes, it is set in the '50s, a maddening movie cliché for a time of innocence. The film's first line, spoken by a 12-year-old girl, is another setback: "Dear diary, nothing ever happens." But before you start fidgeting, the girl is played by an enchantress named Margaret Langrick, without a trace of movie-kid mugging. Langrick has never acted before. She won the role because she was a Vancouver neighbor of writer-director Sandy Wilson, previously a documentary filmmaker. Wilson felt a kinship with Langrick, whom she strongly resembles, and since Wilson's story is largely autobiographical.... Well, you get the point. Langrick (called Sandy in the film) lives on a ranch in the Oka-nagan Lake region of British Columbia. Pretty scenery, sure, but limited for a teenager longing to rock 'n' roll in fast cars. One day her 17-year-old cousin from California (a James Dean look-alike) roars into town in a cherry red Caddy, epitomizing the glamour of the States and everything that Langrick thinks she's been missing. Toronto actor John Wild-man, playing the cousin with a teasing sexuality, takes Langrick and her giggling girlfriends on a speed run in the convertible and a raucous skinny-dip that both terrifies and excites them. Langrick is gaga until she learns that her idol is afraid to face a girl back home whom he may have made pregnant. In March, the film won six Canadian Oscars (called Ge-nies), including Best Picture. Chauvinism may have been a factor. Langrick's final acceptance of home over flashy packaging must taste sweet to Canadians long dominated by American pop culture. This is not a great film, though the small pleasures it offers are not to be sneered at. In the era of The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller, where teens trade one-liners and wear their psyches on their sleeves, it's gratifying to find a film with an eye for what kids keep inside. My American Cousin rings with laughter and truth—a rare, welcome combination. (PG)

Your Reaction

Follow Us

On Newsstands Now

Robin Roberts: How Loved Saved Me
  • Robin Roberts: How Loved Saved Me
  • Emma and Andrew: All About Hollywood's Cutest Couple
  • Prince George! More Yummy Photos

Pick up your copy on newsstands

Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine

Advertisement

From Our Partners

Watch It

Editors' Picks

From Our Partners



Sign up for our daily newsletter and other special offers.
    Choose your newsletters
Thank you for signing up! Your request may take up to one week to be processed.
    see all newsletters