You ever watch a movie that, as you’re watching it, you think, “this is garbage, why am I doing this to myself?” and then it ends and you feel compelled to watch it over and over again. Welcome to my life when I discovered Carolina on WE in the early 2000s.
After Julia Stiles made her breakout teen movies, and then her series of Shakespeare movies (some of which crossed those lines) and even managed to snag a role in Bourne Identity, someone decided to make Julia Stiles a romcom heroine. Let’s be clear here, Julia Stiles is not, nor should have never been the traditional romcom heroine. We liked her in 10 Things I Hate About You because she was assertive and abrasive. She’s not a Reese Witherspoon and she’s not a Meg Ryan, so why Hollywood decided to try and make her one, is a question I will never have an answer for.
This unanswered question is what led to Carolina, a quirky romantic dramedy (all of these terms are being used very loosely here), that feels dated even for the early 2000s, and I mean really… dated.
Julia Stiles, who was 22 at the time this was made, in case you watch this movie and think, “hey she looks too young to have her job,” plays a TV producer on a dating show, who is of course unlucky in love herself. Her best friend and neighbor Albert (Alessandro Nivola, who is better than this) is a writer who ghostwrites romance novels and is obviously in love with Carolina. He’s cool because he has an extensive music collection, shares his many philosophies on love and writes at a standing desk before this was a thing. He is also writing a book based on the love he feels for Carolina, because of romance.
Carolina was raised by her nutty grandmother, and has a super dysfunctional family that she spends the movie clashing with. Her family is poor and her sisters are named after the states her dad was in when they were born. Grandma is a tough as nails hard ass who doles out sage advice. Carolina’s sister Georgia (Azura Skye) gets pregnant out of wedlock and is jobless. Her teenage sister Maine (Mika Boorem) is convinced that if she rides a hobby horse long enough, the winning lottery numbers will come to her because every young girl needs a hobby [horse]. This doesn’t even being to cover the other many characters and cameos.
There are a lot of weird moments, a lot of white trash jokes, weirdly out-of-the-blue racist lines, and even a scene with a West Hollywood gay holiday elves cleaning jingle. This is actual dialogue from the opening scene between young Carolina and young Georgia:
“You know you’re not a fairy princess. You’re a fairy bitch”
“Yeah, well you’re a smart bitch. An ugly smart bitch and no one will ever marry you!”
Are those supposed to be insults or compliments? I’m not quite sure. I mean, I’d be more than happy to be an ugly, unmarriageable, smart bitch, but that’s just me.
There are massive time lapses with relatively no change in the plot. Carolina loses her job, says she has $53 in her account but there is almost no change to her lifestyle, nor is her joblessness really mentioned again until a year later when she gets her job back. This movie covers more than a year. This movie clearly had no editor.
This isn’t why this movie is worth a watch. Everything I just said should have proved that this movie is absolute garbage. However, the saving grace of this movie, and clearly the reason all of these people agreed to be part of this movie is, Shirley Mother Fucking MacLaine. Grandma, who is amazing at everything and offers the best advice ever on film, is played by Shirley MacLaine.
Grandma’s Best Lines from Carolina:
“Well your titties ain’t gonna stay perky forever, you know.”
“If a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his ass so much.”
If you decide that you need a mediocre-to-lackluster, predictable romance about a girl looking for love in the wrong places and learning to accept her deeply flawed family, that feels exceptionally dated and extremely low budget, consider Carolina. If you choose this movie, do it for Shirley MacLaine.