‘Corrina, Corrina’ depicts a lighthearted drama with an honest tone

By Doug Cummings

Arizona Daily Wildcat

So many movies today are packaged into popular entertainments and filmed “by the numbers” in formulaic boredom that any movie which actually seems attached to its characters is a welcome experience.

“Corrina, Corrina” is a movie that, while indulging in some standard plot devices, manages to create a sense of emotional honesty through its obvious affinity towards its characters.

Most of “Corrina, Corrina’s” emotional verity is due to the fact that the film’s director, Jesse Nelson, wrote the screenplay based on her mother’s death when she was a child. The story is about how a little girl and her father work towards emotional recovery with a maid’s caring support.

“Corrina, Corrina” exhibits several good performances, particularly by Tina Majorino (“When a Man Loves a Woman”) who plays the seven-year-old protagonist, Molly. While she has to put up with an occasional sappy line like, “When will Mommy come back?” (a denial of her mother’s death), she adds depth to her character by giving her tenacity and stubbornness. Ray Liotta, who usually plays violent characters (“Good Fellas”, “Unlawful Entry”), is surprisingly good as Manny, the reserved and overwhelmed father who struggles through his job as an advertising musician.

Whoopi Goldberg (“The Color Purple”) plays the role of the maid, Corrina, affectionately and with quiet strength. Like Robin Williams, Goldberg can give a surprisingly refined and touching performance when she’s not goofing off and posturing flamboyantly. Part of Corrina’s character allows her to indulge in some clowning, but in this case, she doesn’t let it take over her performance. Don Ameche (“Cocoon”), in a supporting role, offers his final screen appearance after sixty-five years of acting, and passed away on the last day of filming.

“Corrina, Corrina” is Jesse Nelson’s first major film. As with many “first-time” directors, a seasoned cinematographer, in this case Bruce Surtees (“Lenny” and various Clint Eastwood films), was engaged to film the movie. For the most part, the images are straightforward and use their locations effectively. The social contrast between Manny’s house, Corrina’s house and an affluent mansion Corrina cleans, is drawn effectively. Nelson’s directorial style is observant and unobtrusive and works well with the film’s subject.

There are two other elements that make “Corrina, Corrina” enjoyable. One is its classy jazz score. Corrina’s fascination with the soothing melodies and quiet rhythms of various jazz musicians allows the film to use diegetic music that compliments its atmosphere — similar to Woody Allen’s use of jazz. The other enjoyable element is its subplot of racism and inter-racial relationships. It’s great to see the movie, which potentially could be popular with families, address such a relevant social issue.

“Corrina, Corrina” is a lighthearted drama and what it may lack in surprise, it atones for in honesty. The characters seem real and, in a sense, they are, thanks to writer/director Jesse Nelson.

“Corrina, Corrina” is showing at Century Park 12, (620-0750).

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