Tuesday, October 5, 2010

One Good Hayley Mills Movie Deserves Another

Today went rather smoothly, though I could have totally given more to my juniors...they had at least 10 minutes of down time.  Tomorrow is the first block day and I'm still nervous about it, but I think I've loaded enough things into it to keep the kids busy. There will be whining and gnashing of teeth, but they'd do that anyway.  Besides, we won't know how much more or less we have to plan for these long periods until we do it the first time right?  I can always pull things our of my ass if I have to.  Its all about making it relevant and creating teaching moments...that's what you have to do as a teacher.  And just because you make up an assignment on the fly doesn't mean it isn't a valid assignment.  Anyway, I'm just gonna relax and decompress with some exploitation theater tonight...in the meantime however I have the honor of bringing you another Disney family classic starring the irrepressible Hayley Mills along side....Hayley Mills.  Lets get into double trouble (groan for the bad pun) and look back at The Parent Trap.

Sharon McKendrick is a regular teenager going to an upscale summer camp for the first time in her sheltered Boston life.  While there she runs into Susan Evers, a girl who looks exactly like her, and the two begin an antagonistic relationship that culminates is friendship when they are forced to share a cabin by the head counselor.  Shortly after this, the two discuss their birthdays and parents and discover more coincidences than they can believe.  It turns out that they are identical twin sisters who's parents split-up long ago.  Not wanting to be parted, they hatch a scheme to get their parents back together.  Susan will switch places with Sharon and they will each have some time to get to know the parent that they were unable to know in the past.  Then, they will reveal the switch which will force their mother to reconnect with their father in California (apparently Boston is no place to rekindle a romance).  Susan immediately adores her mother, Maggie, and Sharon is completely taken with her father, Mitch, and all seems to be going to plan until Sharon finds out about Vicki, the gold digging fiancee of Mitch who intends to marry him for his money.  Suddenly the girls are in a race to submarine Vicki while also pushing their parents back together.

If Pollyanna is pure optimism, The Parent Trap is like a real-life fantasy and is surprisingly edgy for Disney at this time.  It wasn't often that hit Disney films took place in the modern world, and it was equally unusual for one to deal so frankly with sex, teenage development, and divorce (well, frank for 1961 anyway).  I can't think of another family film from the same period where you saw a bra hanging on a shower door or heard one of the characters imply that another character was a big whore.  I think that this edge is part of why I've always liked this film more that others from that period.  The performances are top notch as well.  Hayley once again surprises in a duel role that never gets confusing, although she mentions herself that she would sometimes get confused between take to take.   However, I can always tell when she is Susan and when she is Sharon.  Maureen O'Hara is also a scream as Maggie, the lovely and irrepressible mother of the twins...who is the perfect foil for Brian Keith's grounded and yet volatile Mitch.  The supporting players are tremendous as well, always getting a laugh out of me.  I really adore this film and think more people should watch it, as an antidote to sappier or more cloying family fare.

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