Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (2008)

Rated: G
Length: 101 minutes
Grade: B+AAA=A
Budget: $10 million
Box Office: $17.6 million (All U.S.)

Written by: Ann Peacock adapted this (she did the first Narnia screenplay) from the Valerie Tripp novel.
Directed by: Patricia Rozema, whose only previous notable movie was the excellent Mansfield Park.
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Julia Ormond, Chris O’Donnell, Jane Krakowski, Wallace Shawn, Max Thieriot, Willow Smith, Glenne Headly, Zach Mills, Joan Cusack, and Stanley Tucci.

During the worst parts of the Great Depression, one family struggles to make ends meet by taking in boarders as their prospects decline. The daughter aspires to be a newspaper journalist, and she befriends some hobos at a time when hobos are blamed for a crime spree.

Entertainment Value: B+
I really liked this, but not quite to the A level. I think what hindered me was that I was watching it with my son, and I worried that some of the events might concern him, especially given the current economic woes. Also, this is the first movie I can remember where he actually lost interest and didn’t care about what happened. So I can’t grade it an A. Nonetheless, the plot, the acting, and the basic idea here all have a Little House on the Prairie meets Frank Capra feel that I did enjoy.

Superficial Content: A
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A, Violence A- , Language A, Illegality A-+A guy gets hit in the head with a shovel. There is a burglary depicted, but it is clearly depicted as a bad thing. That’s it. Again, G is always G whenever it’s a live action movie.

Significant Content: A
Family is more important than economic issues. Love involves sacrifice. Hard times demand difficult decisions. All people are people, and most people are pretty decent. Beware the temptation to blame problems on outsiders or the poor. Appearances can be deceiving. Perseverance is a virtue, as is honesty. It’s important not to let circumstances beat us. Don’t judge people based on their economic situation.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
Simple and elegant. That’s what I loved about this. It was clearly representing a viewpoint, but by doing so in an archaic setting, it wasn’t overdone. It was a very believable scenario, and one that brought the Depression home in a way that made it seem much more real to me than any of the archive footage I’ve seen ever did.

Discussion Questions:
~Kit complains to her dad that, “We’re not okay if we’re not together” as a family. Have you ever been separated from a parent? What do you think life is like for children of people in the military?
Kit keeps trying to get her articles published. What does she learn in this process about the media? What did she learn from getting rejected? Have you ever been rejected in something you were trying to do? What did you learn from that experience?
~Kit’s dad says, “Don’t let it beat you, kid.” Have you ever found yourself getting angry at a thing or a circumstance? Why is it important to not let these frustrations beat us? How can you overcome those feelings of anger?
~The hobos are portrayed as sharing with each other and donating things to each other. Does it seem to you that people are more generous when they’re poor or when they’re rich? How do pride, greed, and gratitude factor into this?
~Hobos are portrayed as the unjust scapegoats for many problems in the Depression. Who are the modern equivalent of the hobos? Can you think of other cultures or countries and how they treated outsiders in history? Have Christians ever been the scapegoats? What happens when people blame outsiders? What doesn’t happen with regards to the real sources of the problems they’re experiencing?

~The people who know Will and County can see with their own eyes that the two are hard-working, decent, and honest. What drives them to ignore this data and suspect them of a crime? Why is prejudice so powerful?
~The newspaper guys tells Kit, “Sometimes you gotta play the tune your audience wants to hear.” What does he mean? What obligations do newspapers and media have other than to simply turn a profit?
Overall Grade: A
Cute. Interesting. I definitely liked it. Lots of good teaching moments. Norma Rockwell would be proud.

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