Making the Grades
Wild horse movies are very popular. Free them or break them is always the debate. Nell follows the same formula, only a wild human has been substituted for the horse.
Jodie Foster plays Nell, a woman who has never left the depths of the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. Local doctor Jerome Lovell (Liam Neeson) is overwhelmed with the discovery of Nell and asks for assistance from Paula Olsen (Natasha Richardson) a specialist in speech and mental disorders. Meanwhile, Paula's boss is the hard hearted typical movie psychologist who constantly reminds Paula that the only way to treat Nell is to "bring her in." Paula, eager to please at first, soon finds herself being influenced by Dr. Lovell's notions that Nell lives a full and happy life where she is.
This movie is beautifully shot and acted, but it is impossible for Hollywood to deal with the subject of a wild child without a focus on sex and a lengthy discussion on how to introduce her to the subject. Don't worry that she hasn't a clue about personal hygiene, social relationships, or how to file taxes (she has inherited a huge tract of land from her mother). Instead, she is presented a book with many drawings of loving couples...
The other thing Nell likes to do is bathe nude each evening. Considering her character, this action is appropriate, but you soon realize the model-like body you are looking at belongs to Foster and not Nell. Later, Nell is bare-breasted again as the local fools in the pool hall exploit her lack of modesty during an introduction to "civilization."
Finally, everything wraps up with a predictable courtroom scene where Nell suddenly stands and delivers an only-in-the-movies statement on her own behalf that shoots down any notion of her lack of intelligence, and teaches society a good lesson. Somewhere in this film is a worthwhile message about how we deal with people we don't understand -- it just gets lost as we teach Foster's character the facts of life.