The Great Depression hits home for nine-year-old Kit Kittredge when her dad loses his business and leaves to find work. Oscar nominee* Abigail Breslin stars as Kit, leading a splendid cast in the first-ever American Girl theatrical movie. In order to keep their home, Kit and her mother must take in boarders paying houseguests who turn out to be full of fascinating stories. When mothers lockbox containing all their money is stolen, Kits new hobo friend Will is the prime suspect. Kit refuses to believe that Will would steal, and her efforts to sniff out the real news get her and her friends into big trouble. The police say the robbery was an inside job, committed by someone they knew. So if it wasnt Will, then who did it?
The Great Depression (no, not this current one) forms the backdrop of this movie, as well as the inspiration for its titular character Kit Kittredge. A precocious young girl who aspires to be a reporter, she keenly observes the effects of the Depression on the families and friends around her neighbourhood and writes them up into stories that she boldly insists the editor of the local newspaper should publish.
The stories are many and varied- once affluent neighbours forced out of their suburban homes by foreclosure and forced to eat at soup kitchens; respectable members of the community now reduced to hobos despised and loathed by others; and even her own family made to rent out their house to others to raise enough money just to get by. Indeed, it is these stories that form the heart of the movie, each one of them told with great empathy.
But of course, at the centre of it, is our charming heroine Kit Kitrredge. As played with much panache by the luminous Abigail Breslin, she refuses to let the odds get her down. Instead, she keeps her chin up and her fingers typing, determined to get her stories (and byline) on the Cincinnati Register. Certainly, it’s hard to believe that a character doll from the American Girl series can actually become quite the inspiration of optimism.
Thanks to the deft touches of writer Ann Peacock and director Patricia Rozema, Kit Kittredge is a family film that doesn’t play to cheap laughs nor condescend its target audience by diluting or sugar-coating the reality of its subject. Rather, it focuses on the resilience of individuals as they go through tough times and difficult circumstances often beyond their control.
And of course, the respect for the material is duly conveyed by a stellar ensemble cast. Abigail Breslin gives Kit Kittredge much spunk and zest, enlivening each scene her character is in. The likes of Joan Cusack, Stanley Tucci, Jane Krakowski and Julia Ormond also light up the screen in their bit roles as the boarders the Kittredges take in.
If the definition of a family film is one that can be enjoyed by both young and old alike, then Kit Kittredge is a sterling example of one such film. It is delightful, charming and altogether lovely- and what’s more, it has a great lesson of hope that we can all use in our lives particularly in the doom and gloom of this current Depression.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
Becoming an American Girl: Casting tells of how thousands of American girls around the country queued up in line to have a shot to play the roles of Kit Kittredge’s friends in this movie. An Inside Look is the HBO documentary special on the making of the film, from its American Doll inspiration, to its story and finally on-set production. There are also some Additional Scenes you may want to check out.
Great visual transfer enhances the look and feel of the early 1930s era in the movie beautifully. Audio is presented in Dolby 5.1 but expect most of the surround effects from the movie’s score.
by Gabriel Chong