Pumpkin (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byAnthony Abrams
Adam Larson Broder
Produced byKaren Barber
Albert Berger
Christina Ricci
Andrea Sperling
Ron Yerxa
Written byAdam Larson Broder
StarringChristina Ricci
Hank Harris
Brenda Blethyn
Music byJohn Ottman
CinematographyTim Suhrstedt
Edited byRichard Halsey
Sloane Klevin
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • June 28, 2002 (2002-06-28)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$308,552[1]

Pumpkin is a 2002 romantic dark comedy film starring Christina Ricci. It is a story of forbidden love between a developmentally-handicapped young man and a sorority girl. The film was directed by Anthony Abrams and Adam Larson Broder and written by Broder.


Carolyn McDuffy is a privileged college senior beginning her last year of studies at an elite Southern California university. In an effort to help her sorority win a coveted award that has eluded them in the past years, Carolyn joins them in training some handicapped young adults for the Challenged Games (a fictional version of the Special Olympics). Carolyn is paired with Jesse "Pumpkin" Romanoff, and is horrified, mostly by the awkwardness of the environment, screaming when Pumpkin is finally able to say her name. However, Pumpkin is kind towards her and soon she finds herself developing affection toward him because he is genuine.

Carolyn understands that Pumpkin has developed some feelings for her and decides to set up a date for him with her friend Cece. However the date goes horribly as everyone is uncomfortable with Pumpkin in his wheelchair. Rumors cause Carolyn to experience backlash and disdain about her relationship with Pumpkin from her sorority and friends.

Carolyn decides to see a counselor about her feelings towards Pumpkin and their relationship, as they are causing so much disruption in her life. The counselor informs her that this is likely just a fantasy, and she should focus on her relationship with Kent. He also informs her that when she indulges herself, she could have negative emotional impacts on Pumpkin

Meanwhile, Pumpkin's feelings for Carolyn have inspired him to become more independent. His mother catches him looking at a Playboy magazine. When Pumpkin argues that he is a man, she retorts that he is a special man and doesn't have "natural restraints". He then walks across the house, despite his mother's fear that he is weak and could fall, and attempts to call Carolyn on the phone. His mother realizes that his recent behavior is the result of Carolyn's input.

Upon the advice Carolyn received from the counselor, she starts working with another athlete. However, during one of Kent's tennis matches she realizes that all of the opinions she values are phony, and the only person who really understands and cares about her is Pumpkin. She breaks up with Kent and sneaks into Pumpkin's bedroom window.

Judy later walks into her son's room and discovers that Carolyn and Pumpkin have been sexually involved. Pumpkin's mother accuses her of raping her son, claiming Carolyn "has no idea what she has done" to Pumpkin. Pumpkin's mother calls Carolyn's school, causing Carolyn to be kicked out of both it & her sorority. Carolyn makes a suicide attempt by ingesting everything in the medicine cabinet including Pepto-Bismol and contact-lens solution, but survives after vomiting the substances.

After hearing of Carolyn's suicide attempt, the sorority and Kent approach her with the promise of everything going back to the way it was. She is invited to attend a sorority ball with Kent, as Julie feels the couple's attendance will help the sorority secure their award. At the ball, Pumpkin and two of his friends crash the party so Pumpkin can dance with Carolyn. Kent confronts Pumpkin and punches him repeatedly, who responds by accidentally tackling Kent to the ground, resulting in him being knocked unconscious. Humiliated, having been beaten by someone with a disability, Kent leaves the dance. Carolyn tries to take Pumpkin inside to the dance, but Julie and the sorority sisters block the door claiming that they are an "inappropriate couple". Carolyn pushes her way through with Pumpkin and they dance alone. Soon, other attendees are compelled to join them on the dance floor.

Kent leaves the dance in his car, sobbing and driving erratically. He swerves to avoid a truck and plunges off a cliff with the car exploding in mid-air, crashing to the bottom. Carolyn goes to the hospital to check on Kent and finds that he is now paraplegic, though not burned from the explosion. He blames Carolyn for his problems and she is left distraught. Carolyn drops out of college, swearing off Pumpkin forever. The sorority stops helping the team and their rival sorority wins the award. Carolyn enrolls at a public university. Where she is encouraged to not "give in to the world".

The sorority sisters attend the Olympic event. Kent is now the coach for Pumpkin's team and has become a much more empathetic and humble person. Pumpkin must face his rival in the relay, a bully who berates Pumpkin at every chance given. Pumpkin is motivated by Kent, telling him that he owes it to Carolyn to finish what they started. During the race Pumpkin's team falls behind. However, as Pumpkin is running the final leg of the race, he sees Carolyn in the stands and is suddenly motivated not only to finish, but to win. Pumpkin wins the race, and at the finish line is congratulated by the sorority sisters, his mother, and Kent. Carolyn comes down to see Pumpkin as his mother is hugging him, finally accepting her son's progress into a man. Kent accepts that Pumpkin has won Carolyn's heart. Carolyn and Pumpkin kiss and walk off hand in hand. She asks him if she should call him Jesse, his real name, and he replies,"No, Pumpkin will be just fine."



Critical response[edit]

Pumpkin received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes 47 of 74 reviews compiled were negative, resulting in a score of 36%, and an average rating of 4.9/10.[2] On Metacritic the film has a core of 46% based on reviews from 24 critics.[3]

One of the most positive reviews was by Roger Ebert for the Chicago Sun-Times; he wrote, "Pumpkin is alive, and takes chances, and uses the wicked blade of satire in order to show up the complacent political correctness of other movies in its campus genre."[4] Michael O'Sullivan of the Washington Post also approved of the film, calling it "an odd and oddly endearing romantic black comedy."[citation needed] On the other end of the spectrum, Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote that the film "gets along on curiosity value for a while, but becomes increasingly unconvincing and ludicrous as it staggers endlessly toward the finish line."[5]

Box office and DVD[edit]

Pumpkin opened in American theatres on June 28, 2002, in a limited release. It grossed $30,514 in eight theatres in its first weekend, with a per-screen-average of $3,814. The film expanded to 19 theatres the following weekend, but its theatre count declined from there. Pumpkin completed its theatrical run four months later with a final gross of $308,552.[6]

Since its DVD release, the film has become a cult hit. It is often recognized as one of the first examples of genre bending[citation needed]. Ricci herself has called it "a great movie"[7] and Jeff Weiss of Stylus magazine called it "one of the most underrated films of the decade."[8]


  1. ^ Pumpkin at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ "Pumpkin Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  3. ^ https://www.metacritic.com/movie/pumpkin
  4. ^ https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/pumpkin-2002
  5. ^ McCarthy, Todd (18 January 2002). "Pumpkin Review - Variety". Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  6. ^ "Pumpkin at Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  7. ^ Jeff Bond (May 22, 2008). "Christina Ricci interview from Geek Monthly Online". Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  8. ^ Jeff Weiss (2006-08-29). "Pumpkin - A Second Take". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved 24 May 2010.

External links[edit]