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Carolina Mirabeau (Julia Stiles) is a young woman who, along with her two younger sisters Georgia (Azura Skye) and Maine (Mika Boorem), has been raised by her free-spirited and eccentric grandmother Millicent (Shirley MacLaine) after being dumped by their alcoholic father Theodore (Randy Quaid). Desperate to find a normal, meaningful relationship in her life that doesn't revolve around her anomalous family, Carolina's work on a network TV dating show affords her an opportunity to meet young British gentleman Heath (Edward Atterton), the exact opposite to any one of her family members, whom she falls for. Unfortunately for Carolina her best friend, successful romance novelist Albert Norris (Alessandro Nivola), is also enamored with her and when their relationship forces Albert to confront Carolina about his own feelings, her "never a dull moment" life becomes even more complicated.

Review by Craig Miller:
Far from perfect, but no more of a mish-mash of sentiments and genres than many other romantic/comedy/dramas that have gained cinema release over the last couple of years, this recently released straight to DVD title represents some mild entertainment for those who demand little from their dramatic romcoms.

With a strong focus on family values and the "can't change where you come from" ideology, Carolina rests its chances of success on performance and it's here where it will grab you, positively or negatively. Julia Stiles, so often cast in limited roles that rely on dullish one trick acting, at least justifies her talent here and delivers one of her finer performances as the young, normality-driven Carolina, leaving the quirky and eccentric characters to play off and around her. Shirley MacLaine has the interesting task of breathing life into an eccentric grandmother who has shouldered all the family responsibility in her life but never let it get in the way of her own kookiness, with Azura Skye and Mika Boorem the only other actors that get any meat on their roles, yet they are still criminally underutilised.

Where Carolina has a few problems is with the aforementioned mish-mashing. Director Marleen Gorris has an uphill battle here with Katherine Fugate's script which seems to struggle with identity; flitting between a love triangle, the eccentric drama of the Mirabeau family and the comedy of life. There are also some ineffective and wasteful scenes that try to gel it all together, but the storylines just don't seem to want to mix. Still, the more touching moments are handled with sensitivity and understanding and when a final act twist/tragedy hits, you are grateful that Gorris controls the action as well as she does.

Escaping or accepting your social standing and position within your family is something that can generate great drama. Carolina may not find itself among the greatest of these family value films, or indeed the greatest of dramas, but it does show that the combination of these themes and fluffy, light entertainment, can kinda work too.

Published November 3, 2005

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(US, 2003)

CAST: Julia Stiles, Shirley MacLaine, Alessandro Nivola, Randy Quaid, Azura Skye, Edward Atterton, Mika Boorem, Jennifer Coolidge

DIRECTOR: Marleen Gorris

SCRIPT: Katherine Fugate

RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes

PRESENTATION: Full screen, Dolby Digital 2.0


DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: October 12, 2005

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