Making the Grades
Monte Wildhorn (Morgan Freeman) has only come to Belle Island to take advantage of free accommodation over the summer in return for dog sitting. Formerly a successful Wild West writer, the wheelchair bound man has since lost his wife, his fortune and his desire to write. All he can call his own these days is a bad attitude and a drinking problem.
Despite this, his caring nephew Henry (Kenan Thompson) makes sure he packs along his trusty typewriter, hoping perhaps the idyllic setting will inspire the old cuss to plunk out a few new prose. But Monte vows to stay clear of any activity that might be good for him.
Unfortunately he has come to the last place where he can expect to be left in peace to drink himself to distraction. In such a small town everyone knows something about everyone else and it takes no time at all before the nine-year-old girl next door begins asking him questions. When Finnegan (Emma Fuhrmann) discovers he is a published author, she starts pestering him for writing lessons.
Nor is she the only intrusion into his privacy. The girl’s two siblings (Madeline Carroll, Nicolette Pierini) and their single mother (Virginia Madsen) are soon trespassing in his life too. A woman (Jessica Hecht) with a mentally handicapped child (Ash Christian) asks the retired novelist if he can give special attention to her lonely son. And a neighbor (Fred Willard) pushes him into delivering the eulogy at the memorial service of a man he doesn’t even know. And the clerk at the local general store (Debargo Sanyal) gets involved in his grocery choices.
Of course everyone know his crusty exterior can’t possibly survive all these well-meaning pokes and prods… and that is exactly what makes this movie so much fun. Although Monte tries to ward off such entanglements and obligations with eloquent (and often satirical) remarks that bespeak his literary disposition, it is not long before his defenses start to crumble.
While some profanities, a few mildly sexual remarks, a brief moment of violence and Monte’s reliance on alcohol may discourage some family audiences, the sunshine of this story and the transformation it’s warmth has on the icy old man are sure to have many viewers feeling The Magic of Belle Isle too.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Magic of Belle Isle.
How do the many disappointments in Monte’s life contribute to his desire to drink? Does the alcohol really help his problems? What are the things that eventually do bring him happiness? Why must he give up drinking if he wants to continue enjoying these newfound pleasures?
What struggles are Finnegan and her family experiencing? How does learning to use one’s imagination bring some peace into their lives? What can you do to help you cope with trails and challenges?