OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE Send This Review to a Friend
A blue-collar comedy with heart, "Outside Providence" focuses on the troubles of a young potential loser from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, who begins to find his bearings during a prep school experience that is forced upon him. The film, set in the 1970s, is based on a novel by Peter Farrelly, who co-wrote the screenplay with Bobby Farrelly and Michael Corrente, who directed. The involvement of the Farrelly brothers invokes comparisons with their previous "There's Something About Mary," but this film, while often extremely funny, has a tender edge to it and is a deeper, more meaningful work.
Actor Shawn Hatosy brings credibility to the appealing role of Timothy Dunphy, and Alec Baldwin could well win awards for playing his gruff, uneducated father who calls his son Dildo and treats him harshly, although it is clear that there is love underlying the derision. We meet Timothy and his four teenage pals, who seem born, awkward losers. They are hopeless with girls and school, and spend their time smoking pot. His father and his poker-playing buddies already are confirmed losers, and their Archie-Bunker talk is very funny. Timothy affectionately looks after his younger brother, crippled by a fall. Even the family dog is a mess; it only has three legs. Timothy's mother is dead as a result of circumstances that we learn about late in the story.
After Timothy crashes a car into a police car during a night of getting high, his father uses a connection to keep him out of jail and send him to a prep school where he is supposed to straighten out. It's a familiar set-up--bullying by a mean taskmaster, a stuffy environment and rebellious hell-raising by students, including Timothy. His life begins to change when he meets Jane, enrolled in the girls' part of the institution. Amy Smart brings warmth and attractiveness to her role as the key new force that helps him grow up.
There's an abundance of raunchy humor and language--what would a coming-of-age film be without it these days? On occasion the film presses too hard on the serious side, but to the credit of the actors, and especially Baldwin in key moments, for all its hilarity in parts "Outside Providence" glows with humanity and understanding about class barriers, an ingredient more likely to be found in films from Britain than in those set in the United States.
"Outside Providence" is one of the year's better works, and once again, a small-scale film looms larger than more lavish Hollywood efforts. A Miramax Films release.