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Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) is an eleven year old girl in a small Pennsylvania town in the early 1970s, at the beginning of life even as she lives with the constant reminder of death; her father (Dan Ackroyd) is a mortician who runs his business out of the family home, and her mother died during childbirth complications. The father and daughter also live with Vada's grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimers and whose only vocalizations are belted-out showtunes from her youth. This life story, paired with Ada's precocious and imaginative mind, makes for some highly entertaining and eminently human eccentricities; a hypochondriac, Vada is a regular patron of her family doctor, constantly convinced that she is suffering from some obscure and fatal illness. Her best friend is Thomas J. (Mackaulay Culkin), a wide-eyed naif to whom she tells all her thoughts, fears, and dreams. These include her romantic interest in her English teacher (Griffin Dunne), and her reservations regarding Shelly (Jamie Lee Curtis), her father's newly-employed makeup artist and love interest. Vada's world is eventually turned upside down when tragedy strikes, and she is forced to do some growing up along the way.
Director Howard Zieff has delivered a timeless coming-of-age that endures due to the strength of its characters and the quirky humanity of the story. Anna Chlumsky exhibits a vast emotional range and delivers a stunning performance, while Culkin seems natural in his role of observer that is worlds away from his character in HOME ALONE. The film treats the loss of innocence and the pain Vada goes through with respect and depth, and ultimately creates a moving portrait of a family's growth together as they learn to recognize and accept the pain and beauty of life.
Richard Masur - American Actor
Jamie Lee Curtis - American actress, HALLOWEEN (1978)
Macaulay Culkin - American actor, HOME ALONE, PARTY MONSTER
Anna Chlumsky - Child Actress
Griffin Dunne - American Actor/Producer
Howard Zieff - American Director
Peter Michael Goetz - American Actor/"Wolfen"
Dan Aykroyd - Writer/Director/Actor
Daniel Edward Aykroyd - Writer/Director/Actor
A troubled, hypochondriacal 11-year-old girl deals with some of life's more adult realities, as her dad--a widowed mortician--begins dating his funeral cosmetologist, and her friendship with a neighbor boy evolves into a pre-teen romance. But her emotional journey follows a difficult, rocky path.
Film was originally rated PG-13 by the MPAA, but won a PG on appeal.
"...[Culkin is] cute and sympathetic..." -- Rating: B - 12/16/1994 Entertainment Weekly, pp.80-1