Director: Marleen Gorris

What appears from the DVD box to be a deceptive, typical teen romance starring Julia Stiles is a surprisingly involving, compassionate and odd little film from Marleen Gorris about a large family, whose spirit, heart, and goodness is in its women led by matriarch grandmother Shirley McClaine, whose job it is to hold everyone together. McClaine raised three granddaughters, with Stiles playing the most responsible of the trio and often the conscience of this loving but frankly white trash southern CA family. Reminiscent thematically of Antonia’s Line—the film contains another large outside table filled on holidays with family and friends who have become family, with births, deaths, heartaches and everything in between in the lives of the women. Breaking the tired tradition of saddling the heroine with a clich├ęd gay best friend, Alessandro Nivola turns in a fine performance as a steamy romance writing straight friend and neighbor to Stiles, with whom he is hopelessly and obviously in love. It's a bit predictable but quirky enough to keep you guessing and damn if you don't shed a tear or three.