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1998-2000 C. Petrovic

Original date of publication:
Chicago Sun-Times Inc.
No copyright infringement is intended.

By: Roger Ebert

           Ryder plays Dinky Bossetti, the brightest girl in the high
    school. The other kids have cast her in the role of an outsider, and
    she plays the role with some determination, dressing herself entirely
    in black, confronting people with unwavering stares, and locking
    herself into her room. She has a secret life down by the river near
    her small Ohio hometown; she's turned an abandoned boat into an ark
    where she cares for a menagerie of animals - dogs, goats, pigs,
    turtles - who all seem to coexist happily between her visits.

           The town is agog because the famous Roxy Carmichael, who left
    town 15 years ago, is about to return. The movie never quite makes
    clear exactly what Roxy did to achieve fame (she's a movie star,
    maybe, or a singer) but now, on the dawn of her return, her home has
    been turned into a shrine and the local population is preparing for a
    big welcome-home dance.

           Dinky Bossetti, who has been adopted, is convinced Roxy is her
    real  mother. That would mean her real father is Denton Webb (Jeff
    Daniels), a local landscaper who once had an affair with Roxy. Other
    people involved in her fate include her adoptive parents Rochelle and 
    Les (Frances Fisher and Graham Beckel), who want to cart her away to a 
    home for problem children, and her sometime boyfriend (Thomas Wilson 
    Brown), who likes her but wishes she'd get her act together.

           There's enough material here for several movies, but none of
    them turns into this one. It's especially distracting the way the story
    cuts to Roxy Carmichael (seen from the neck down), preparing for her
    big visit; these shots suggest an approach that never develops. I also
    doubted that the landscaper would have such an instant rapport with
    Dinky, that the landscaper's wife would pick such a contrived fight
    with him, and that the movie's realistic soul-searching could coexist
    in the same movie broad and corny humor.

           The two relationships that do work are between Dinky and her
    boyfriend, and between Dinky and the guidance counselor (Laila Robins),
    who sees through her facade and really cares for her. These characters
    give Dinky an opportunity to reveal a touching and vulnerable
    personality - which, combined  with her intelligence, makes her as
    likable and special as the bright valedictorian  in last year's
    wonderful "Say Anything." Too bad these insights weren't  developed
    more. Instead, the movie sinks into contrived plot manipulation.

       "Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael" contains one small treasure: A
    perceptive and particular performance by Winona Ryder in the role 
    of a high  school outcast. Her work is surrounded by a screenplay
    so flat-footed that much  of our time is spent waiting impatiently 
    for foregone conclusions. "Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael," opening
    today at local theaters.