Making the Grades
Steve Martin plays the dramatic role (even though the box claims it's a comedy) of a man who turns into a recluse after the discovery of his wife's infidelity. Now he spends all his time building furniture and squandering every cent into gold coins, which he loses to a thief. Finally, hope arrives in the form of a little blonde girl who wanders into his home on a cold winter night. No one knows she's the illegitimate daughter of the local rich politician, John Newland (Gabriel Byrne), until the day Newland decides he wants her back.
Based an the classic 1861 story, Silas Marner by George Eliot, this movie adds a few twists not related to fate. Similar to the recent release of A Little Princess, the fate of the girl in this story is altered so that the power of money is the dominating theme. I hate to give away the ending, but let me just say that in the book, the girl gets to decide for herself -- watch the movie and you will know what I'm talking about.
The film is beautifully shot and directed, and has some very touching moments. It demonstrates that the ideals of a Victorian novel can still be transplanted into the 1990's. At the same time, it borrows from a recent current event where the courts ordered that an adopted child be returned to the original birth parents. Perhaps Martin deliberately modified the ending to show how money and good lawyers have become more important than parenting skills.
If you have never seen Martin in a dramatic role, you may be wise to rent this film. Even with Martin's involvement as writer, producer, and actor, it only contains a few minor obscenities and may be appropriate for your older children. As usual, watch with them if you can and see who they think should receive custody and if the money should make any difference in the decision. Then find the book at your library to read how it really ends.