my girl is a 1991 american coming-of-age comedy-drama film directed by howard zieff, written by laurice elehwany, and starring dan aykroyd, jamie lee curtis, macaulay culkin, and anna chlumsky in her first role in a major motion picture. the film tells the story of an 11-year-old girl living in madison, pennsylvania, during the summer of 1972. the film’s title refers to the classic 1964 song of the same name by the temptations, which is also featured in the film’s end credits. a book based on the film was written by patricia hermes. the film grossed $121 million on a budget of $17 million. a sequel, my girl 2, was released in 1994.
vada sultenfuss is an 11-year-old girl and a tomboy but is a hypochondriac living in madison, pennsylvania, during the summer of 1972. her father, harry, is a widowed funeral director who generally ignores her. vada tends to her paternal grandmother, ‘gramoo’, who has alzheimer’s disease. phil, vada’s uncle, lives across town but stops by regularly. vada spends much of her time with her best friend, thomas j. sennett, a boy her age who is allergic to bee stings. other girls tease the two, thinking they’re more than friends. thomas j. often accompanies vada when she visits the doctor, and is patient with her even though she is often unkind to him.
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vada befriends shelly devoto, the new makeup artist at harry’s funeral parlor. vada also develops a crush on her fifth-grade school teacher, mr. bixler, and hears about an adult poetry class that he is teaching. vada steals money from shelly to cover the cost of the class. when advised to write about what is in her soul, vada writes about her guilt surrounding her mother’s death.
harry and shelly start dating, which strains vada’s relationship with shelly. one night, vada and thomas j. follow the harry and shelly to a bingo game, hoping to disrupt it. shelly’s ex-husband danny arrives at their fourth of july party and vada hopes that he is there to reconcile with shelly, but to no avail. vada becomes more distressed when harry and shelly announce their engagement at a carnival, and she contemplates running away with thomas j.
when vada gets her first period, she runs around screaming that she is hemorrhaging. shelly explains to her that she is menstruating. when thomas j. stops by later, vada declines to see him. a couple of days later, vada and thomas j. sit together at their spot by the river and share a first kiss.
vada and thomas j. come across a beehive hanging from a tree, which he decides to knock down. vada loses her mood ring in the process, so they start looking for it, but the two run away before finding it as the bees start swarming. thomas j.
yields by himself to search for the ring. he steps on the beehive and the bees begin to swarm him. just as he finds the ring, he is stung and he dies from an allergic reaction.
harry is left to deliver the tragic news to vada, which devastates her so much that she refuses to leave her bedroom. shelly suggests to harry that he should reach out to vada, but he brushes her off. shelly reminds harry not to ignore the living, especially his daughter.
vada attends thomas j.’s funeral, where she is so overcome with grief that she runs to mr. bixler’s house. there, she discovers that he is getting married. vada
yields to her and thomas j.’s spot near the river to reflect on what has happened. when vada returns home, everyone is relieved. vada begins to accept shelly as her future stepmother and harry explains to vada that her mother’s death was never her fault and tragic events can happen without explanation.
the next day, vada and her father visit a grieving mrs. sennett. mrs. sennett gives vada her mood ring and vada comforts mrs. sennett. on the last day of her writing class, vada reads a poem she wrote about the loss of her best friend. she then goes outside to ride her bike with her new friend, judy, as the credits roll.
- dan aykroyd as harry sultenfuss
- jamie lee curtis as shelly devoto
- macaulay culkin as thomas j. sennett
- anna chlumsky as vada sultenfuss
- richard masur as phil sultenfuss
- griffin dunne as mr. bixler
- ann nelson as gramoo sultenfuss
- anthony r. jones as arthur
the screenplay, written by laurice elehwany, was originally titled born jaundiced, and was purchased by imagine entertainment in july 1990. on august 24, 1990, it was reported in daily variety that the screenplay had been re-titled to i am woman, but was subsequently changed to its final title, my girl, in the spring of 1991. elehwany based the fictional setting of madison, pennsylvania, on an unnamed small town in southern pennsylvania, where she had been raised.
culkin and chlumsky were cast in the lead roles of thomas j. and vada, respectively, in january 1991. filming took place in bartow and sanford, florida beginning in february 1991. exteriors of the sultenfuss home were supplied by a real victorian home in bartow, while the house’s interiors were built on a soundstage in orlando.
when my girl was submitted to the motion picture association of america (mpaa) in september 1991, it was rated pg-13. later that month, the film’s producers won an appeal to have the film reclassified to a pg-rating.
my girl was released on november 27, 1991.
the film currently holds a 53% score on rotten tomatoes. roger ebert gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4, writing: “the beauty in this film is in its directness. there are some obligatory scenes. but there are also some very original and touching ones. this is a movie that has its heart in the right place.” owen gleiberman of entertainment weekly praised chlumsky’s performance in the film, but conceded that “there’s something discomforting about a movie that takes the experience of an audacious, conflicted child and reduces it to: she needs to confront her feelings. my girl has some sweet, funny moments (the cast is uniformly appealing), yet it unfolds in a landscape of paralyzing, pop-psych banality.”
film critic caryn james cited the film as being part of a “trend toward stronger, more realistic themes in children’s films”, specifically its representations of death, specifically that of a young child. david kehr of the chicago tribune wrote of the film: “if my girl helps stimulate family discussions of death and loss, it will certainly have done some good in the world. but at the same time, its aesthetic interest is virtually nil… though my girl seeks to stir large, devastating emotions, zieff seems afraid to touch on anything too difficult or unpleasant, lest it alienate his audience. the results are curiously gutless and unmoving, as zieff finds himself stuck with a sentimentality without substance, a poetry without pain.” peter rainer of the los angeles times was similarly critical of the film’s “syrupy” elements, concluding: “the mixture of winsomeness and deadpan frights in my girl ought to be weirder and more interesting than it is. after all, a girl who survives a household where bodies are embalmed in the basement is the kind of plucky heroine that movies about kids need right now. or movies about adults, for that matter.”
janet maslin of the new york times was critical of the screenplay for being made up of “loose ends bound together only by intimations of mortality and family crisis,” summarizing: “it’s not hard for the maudlin my girl to make its audience weepy at the sight of america’s favorite kid in an open coffin. but it is difficult for this film to mix the sugary unreality of a television show with such a clumsy and manipulative morbid streak.” variety noted: “plenty of shrewd commercial calculation went into concocting the right sugar coating for this story of an 11-year-old girl’s painful maturation, but [the] chemistry seems right.”
my girl opened at no. 2 with $12,391,783, and grossed $59,489,799 domestically, then $62 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $121,489,799.
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”, while vada has posters of the broadway musical hair, the carpenters, and donny osmond on her bedroom wall.
- ^ a b “my girl”. box office mojo. retrieved june 15, 2015.
- ^ hermes, patricia; elehwany, laurice (1991). my girl (first edition 4th printing ed.). new york: pocket books. isbn +19176223089.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i “my girl”. afi catalog of feature films. retrieved september 7, 2018.
- ^ ebert, roger (november 27, 1991). “my girl”. chicago sun-times. retrieved june 15, 2015 – via rogerebert.com.
- ^ gleiberman, owen (december 6, 1991). “my girl”. entertainment weekly. retrieved august 29, 2018.
- ^ james, caryn (december 1, 1991). “film view; reality comes with the popcorn”. the new york times. retrieved august 30, 2018.
- ^ kehr, david (november 27, 1991). “‘ my girl’ wallows in weeping generalizations”. chicago tribune. retrieved september 7, 2018.
- ^ rainer, peter (november 27, 1991). “movie review : a conventional ‘my girl’ brings out the hankies”. los angeles times. retrieved september 5, 2018.
- ^ maslin, janet (november 27, 1991). “review/film; growing up surrounded by death”. the new york times. retrieved august 30, 2018.
- ^ “review: ‘my girl’ “. variety. 1991. retrieved june 15, 2015.
- ^ groves, don (february 22, 1993). “hollywood wows world wickets”. variety. p. 85.
- my girl at allmovie
- my girl at box office mojo
- my girl at imdb
- my girl at the tcm movie database
- my girl at rotten tomatoes