Review by Tres
This week I am looking at The Magic of Belle Isle. It’s a Rob Riner movie that went through the Hollywood world last year and ended up on a rental shelf and the shelves of Wal-Mart for purchase without much notice. Critics didn’t give it a second look and it never made the top “must see” lists.
Morgan Freeman plays a “washed up” western novel writer, widower Monte Wildhorn. He is wheelchair bound due to a drunk driver hitting him while he was in his early 20’s. Even though alcohol put him in his chair, alcohol is his weakness and addiction.
The movie starts with his nephew, played by Kenan Thompson, as his nephew, helping him move into a summer rental on Belle Isle where he has agreed to dog sit Ringo, whom he insists is now called Spot, for the summer. He enters the scene an angry and bitter man that does not want to be around people and has turned his back on writing.
Next door, Charlotte O’Neil (Virginia Madsen) is a single mom with 3 daughters, who is currently going through a divorce. She tries to be all she can be for her three daughters, Willow (Madeline Carroll) who is angry at her mother, Finnegan (Emma Fuhrmann) who seems a little disconnected from most people, and little Flora (Nicolette Pierini) who is just a happy go lucky little lady. They moved from their lives in the city to their family summer home on Belle Isle.
The older two girls have their struggles. Willow is angry. Her parents divorcing and her having to leave her home in the city and her friends are not sitting well with her. She takes shots at her mother throughout the movie letting Charlotte know that this divorce is her fault in her eyes. Things begin to change when she discovers her mother’s childhood journal that was written at a time that her own parents were divorcing.
The main connection in the movie involves Finnegan and Monte. Finnegan is a natural story teller and she hires Monte with her saved allowance to teach her how to be a writer. It’s her relentless way of making him teach her that really begins to break Monte down to showing his softer side. He challenges her to tell him what she doesn’t see; not an easy task, but one she eventually is able to do.
Monte also makes a connection with little Flora who is an elephant lover. At a point where the father once again cancels seeing his girls by calling in the middle of Flora’s birthday party to tell her he won’t be coming, Monte brings out his gift. He reluctantly had sat down at his type writer and created a story about an elephant and a family of mice, mimicking things in his recent life with the ladies next door, for her birthday present. The fact that he has refused to write and return to his beloved western character, Jubal, but decides to write a children’s story does not sit well with Finnegan.
Monte also makes an unexpected connection with Charlotte as he begins to soften and show his true characters.
One of my favorite reluctant connections in the movie involves Carl Loop (Ash Christian), who is a mentally handicapped adult that goes around the island hopping like a giant bunny rabbit. Carl’s mom makes a special request of Monte to possibly call him on the phone occasionally, because he loves getting phone calls. On a spur of the moment decision Monte calls Carl and talks to him. Through this connection, the trusty side kick Diego Sanchez is born.
Another great connection, which is one sided at best, is the connection between Monte and Spot. There are some great conversations that take place in this movie between these two characters.
This is a predictable movie in most scenes. It is a calm drama with some comedic and heartfelt scenes.
The challenge that Monte gives Finnegan is truly applicable to life as a Christian. So many times people challenge us in life with the idea of “logic” and “science”. When we step back and focus on what we can’t see, it becomes obvious that there is so much more. God is the thing we don’t see, but that we feel and put our faith in. When you read a book, if an author just paints a picture of scenery for your mind’s eye, the book is flat and incomplete. Not until you get an author that gives you more than your eyes can see do you get drawn in and become involved. When we walk in this world just taking in scenery, we are missing the blessings that God has granted us.
The “magic” of the acting in the movie isn’t the greatest I have ever seen. However, it’s truly a good movie and worth the time spent watching. In an era where Hollywood puts out some truly questionable material, it was nice to have such a sincere and heartfelt movie. Just because the critics didn’t rate it high, doesn’t mean it’s not magical.
I give it a 4 out of 5. I’m adding this one to my collection.
If you take my advice and watch this, please let me know your opinion.