My Girl (film)

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This article is about the 1991 film. For the 2003 Thai film, see Fan Chan.
My Girl
A girl holding her hand on her head and laughing, with a boy in the background laughing.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Howard Zieff
Produced by Brian Grazer
Joseph M. Caracciolo
David T. Friendly
Written by Laurice Elehwany
Starring Dan Aykroyd
Jamie Lee Curtis
Macaulay Culkin
Anna Chlumsky
Peter Michael Goetz
Narrated by Anna Chlumsky
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography Paul Elliot
Production
  company
Imagine Entertainment
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) November 27, 1991 (1991-11-27)
Running time 102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million
Box office $59,847,243

My Girl is a 1991 American drama film directed by Howard Zieff and written by Laurice Elehwany. The film, starring Macaulay Culkin and Anna Chlumsky in her feature film debut, depicts the coming-of-age of a young girl who faces many different emotional highs and lows. Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis also star.

A sequel, My Girl 2, was released in 1994.

Plot[edit]

In the summer of 1972, in the town of Madison, Pennsylvania, eleven-year-old Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) struggles through changes in her life. She is a tomboy on the verge of adolescence. Her father, Harry Sultenfuss (Dan Aykroyd), is an awkward widower who does not understand his daughter, so he constantly ignores her. His profession as a funeral director, for which the Sultenfuss' residence serves as a funeral parlor, has led Vada to develop an obsession with death. She also lives with, and tends to, her ill grandmother — "Gramoo" (Ann Nelson) — who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, and whose wandering mind likewise affects Vada. Harry's brother Phil (Richard Masur), who lives nearby, also stops by frequently to help out the family.

Vada hangs out with Thomas J. Sennett (Macaulay Culkin), an unpopular boy her age who is allergic to "everything." They soon become best friends, but the other girls tease the two as being more than just friends. Thomas J. accompanies Vada twice to the doctor's office, where her doctor assures her that she is not sick (her living in a funeral parlor has also made her a hypochondriac), and that she has no chicken bone stuck in her throat.

Vada's summer begins well. She befriends Shelly DeVoto (Jamie Lee Curtis), the new make-up artist at her father's funeral parlor, who provides her with some much needed guidance. She is also infatuated with her teacher, Mr. Bixler (Griffin Dunne), and strives to become a writer by attending an adult writing class he is teaching. While she steals money from a cookie jar in Shelly’s trailer to cover the cost of the class, and while her writing style lacks maturity, she learns valuable lessons from Mr. Bixler and her classmates. When advised to write about what's in her heart, Vada reveals a fear that she may have killed her mother, who died shortly after giving birth to her.

Harry and Shelly start dating, which begins to affect Vada's attitude toward Shelly. When Harry takes Shelly to a bingo game, Vada brings Thomas J. along to disrupt it. On the fourth of July, when Shelly's ex-husband Danny shows up, Vada hopes he will take her back. Vada finds it hard to accept that her father has found love again, and is even more in shock when the two announce their engagement at a carnival. She contemplates running away with Thomas J.

Vada is also seeing change within herself, screaming after discovering she is "hemorrhaging". Shelly convinces Vada that her first period is a completely natural process, but as Vada realizes this occurs only with girls, she does not want to see Thomas J., who happens to come by shortly afterward. A few days later, though, the two are sitting together near a weeping willow tree by a lake, where they share an innocent first kiss.

One day in the woods, Vada and Thomas J. stumble across a beehive and decide to knock it down. While doing so, Vada loses her mood ring, and the two look for it. The search is cut short, as bees come swarming out of the hive they disturbed and force them to run. Thomas J. later returns by himself and finds the ring, but he suddenly gets stung by bees from the damaged hive and dies from an allergic reaction.

Harry is left to deliver the tragic news to Vada; it leaves her so devastated that she does not open up to anyone for a few days. Shelly gets into an argument with Harry right before the memorial service begins, seeing that he does not fully understand the grief Vada is experiencing, and that his undertaker work is blinding his relationship with her.

As Vada attends the memorial for Thomas J., her pain and emotions become so strong that she runs away. She is then further crushed upon seeing Mr. Bixler with his new fiancée, who are both heading to the memorial. Vada resigns herself to the weeping willow tree, where she spends the rest of the day reflecting on what has happened. She eventually returns home, much to everyone's relief, including Shelly, whom Vada starts to accept as her future stepmother.

Vada's grief manages to mend the rift between her and her father. She learns that her mother's death wasn't her fault; Harry explains to her that such things can happen without explanation. Toward the end of summer, Harry and Vada see Thomas J.'s mother, who still struggles with her son's death. She gives Vada her mood ring back, which Thomas J. found, and Vada gives Mrs. Sennett some comfort. On the last day of her writing class, Vada reads a poem expressing her sadness over the loss of her best friend.

Cast[edit]

  • Dan Aykroyd as Harry Sultenfuss: Vada's father and the manager of Sultenfuss' funeral parlor in Madison, Pennsylvania.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis as Shelly DeVoto: The new make-up artist at the funeral home. She is an experienced cosmetologist from Detroit, Michigan and later Harry's fiancée.
  • Macaulay Culkin as Thomas J. Sennett: A fragile young boy who is allergic to "everything." He is also Vada's friend and neighbor.
  • Anna Chlumsky as Vada Sultenfuss: The central character. A tomboyish girl, full of medical issues, including a chicken bone lodged in her throat.
  • Richard Masur as Phil Sultenfuss: Harry's brother and Vada's uncle. He works with Harry and gives him advice when Harry starts dating Shelly.
  • Griffin Dunne as Mr. Jake Bixler: Vada's fifth grade teacher whom she has a crush on. He teaches an adult poetry writing class during the summer.
  • Ann Nelson as Gramoo Sultenfuss: Vada's absent-minded grandmother and Harry and Phil's mother. She suffers from Alzheimer's disease and spends a majority of the time in a chair in the living room.

Reception[edit]

The film received mixed reviews. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives a score of 50% based on reviews from 14 critics.[1]

Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4.[2]

Music[edit]

The soundtrack of the film contains several 1960s and 1970s pop hits in addition to the title song (by The Temptations), including "Wedding Bell Blues" (The 5th Dimension), "If You Don't Know Me by Now" (Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes), "Bad Moon Rising" (Creedence Clearwater Revival), "Good Lovin'" (The Rascals), and "Saturday in the Park" (Chicago). When Vada gets upset, she plugs her ears and sings "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", the Manfred Mann version of which is also included on the soundtrack album. In addition, Vada and Thomas J. play "The Name Game" and sing "Witch Doctor" in the film, and Vada has posters of the Broadway Musical Hair, The Carpenters and Donny Osmond on her bedroom wall.

Cultural references[edit]

  • In the film Accepted, after Justin Long's character performs a cover of The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop", he lists "not crying at the end of My Girl" as one of the things he cannot do.
  • Thomas J.'s death is referenced in the The OC episode entitled "The Heights". After crying during an intense conversation with ex-girlfriend Marissa, Luke later tells her that he hasn't cried like that "since Macaulay Culkin died in My Girl".[3]
  • At the end of heavy metal band Anthrax's 1993 album Sound of White Noise, a sample of Vada's teacher Mr. Bixler saying "Be dangerous and unpredictable...and make a lot of noise" is used in the outro. Anthrax singer John Bush also sings this exact phrase on Sound of White Noise b-side track "Poison My Eyes" which was released on the Last Action Hero soundtrack in 1993.
  • The funeral scene in which Vada cries "Put on his glasses! He can't see without his glasses!" over Thomas J.'s body is constantly referenced and played during the popular Philadelphia morning show Preston and Steve whenever Preston is unable to read something.

References[edit]

External links[edit]