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Review by Nancy Legato
Rating: (3 out of 5)
Sunday, 10/14/2007, 7:00 PM
presentation, $10 at Landmark’s E Street Cinema
FINN’S GIRL IS an ambitious attempt by directors Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert to juggle drama, romance, suspenseful thriller and (attempted) murder mystery, all in one. The eponymous Zelly (Maya Ritter), stepdaughter of Finn, resides at the center of the vortex, a precocious 11-year-old going on 30, who acts out her anger over her mother’s death and her stepmother’s benign neglect by shoplifting gay-porn magazines and stumbling through initial forays into sexuality with her friends.
Meanwhile, Finn herself (Brooke Johnson) has her own problems, enduring threats on her life at her partner’s abortion clinic, navigating the perils of parenting with the willful Zelly, and re-awakening to her own sexuality and emotions following her partner’s death. Finn’s current girlfriend Jamie (Nathalie Toriel) vies for Finn’s affections, knowing that Zelly will never let her take on an important role in their lives. Diana (Yanna McIntosh), the hot detective assigned to protect Finn from anti-abortion crusaders, would like to take on the role that Zelly won’t let Jamie have. Underlying all this is the mystery of Zelly’s parentage, a question to which only one living person knows the answer.
Such a dense network of relationships, mysteries and yearnings could have driven a compelling exploration of the human drama — or a captivating thriller, or a cheesy Lifetime afternoon movie. Unfortunately, Cardona and Colbert never quite figure out which story they are trying to tell, or how they’d like to tell it. They also rely too much on Finn, a central character without much bite, a person we are expected to believe has attained some level of achievement professionally, but who seems to flit through perils mainly by allowing her decisions to be made by the varied forces in her life, including her own daughter. Unlike her stepmother, Zelly does demonstrate initiative in some decisive moments, which are handled well by Maya Ritter, who has an uncanny ability to leaven pre-adolescent budding rebellion with glimpses of the child inside yearning for her mother’s love.
Ultimately, Finn’s Girl struggles with its identity crisis as much as some of its characters do, but there’s just enough craft as well as earnestness to make the film more interesting, finally, than a Lifetime movie. — Nancy Legato