Miss Matilda (matilda_honey) wrote in forever_starlet,
Miss Matilda

The Great Gilly Hopkins Isn't Quite So Great

Film: The Great Gilly Hopkins (2015). Young Actress: Sophie Nelisse, age 14.

Based on the 1978 book of the same name, this film opens as Galadriel "Gilly" Hopkins (Sophie) arrives at another foster home. Her new foster mother Trotter (Kathy Bates, Annie 1999) tries to make her feel welcome, but Gilly, angry and apathetic, pushes away all her attempts to get close. After stealing money from a neighbor and trying to run away, Gilly gradually comes to love living with Trotter and sees her and her foster brother William Ernest (Zachary Hernandez) as her surrogate family. But just as this happens, Gilly's biological grandmother (Glenn Close) discovers that she exists and wants to take custody of her.

The writers and director of this film made several poor choices while adapting it from the book. Gilly's storyline in the book has so much potential for grittiness and depth; after being abandoned by her mother, she went through several foster families, some of whom gave her up for superficial reasons. But the film never touches on her backstory, or tells us anything about her life before she arrived at Trotter's. Gilly's change of heart towards her foster family also happens much too quickly, and without any turning point to trigger it. Sophie does the best that she can, but no actress could deliver a great performance with such an underdeveloped character.

Gilly with her foster mother, Trotter

In favor of character development, this film gives us standard kid-movie subplots, and some of them don't even go anywhere. Gilly fights with bullies, rebels against her teacher (Octavia Spencer, Black or White), and befriends a perky younger girl (Clare Foley). There's also too much ridiculous dialogue; after standing up to some bullies who picked on William Ernest, Gilly tells them, "The name's Hopkins, Gilly Hopkins." To an even worse degree than Bridge to Terabithia (based on a book by the same author, Katherine Paterson), this film loses the book's unique depth and power and turns it into an average, watered-down children's movie. It's watchable, but it could've been so much better, if only it had made a little effort to be edgier.

Other reviews of Sophie's films: The Book Thief (2013).
Tags: film reviews

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