Monday, November 28, 2005

Pretty Baby (1978)-R

In a recent interview with Terry Gross, Brooke Shields recalled her controversial role as a prostitute in Pretty Baby. The sexuality was mild by today's standards, Brooke recalls. Well, full frontal nudity of a pre-adolescent girl would raise many eyebrows in today's anti-child pornography world. Yet, Brooke is right that the film's sexuality is mild because the sexuality of a 12-year-old is innocent. Brooks Shields is simply brilliant in her portrayal of a young girl being raised in a New Orleans brothel. She is brilliant because, her character is her. She is playing herself. Her character Violet is asked to pretend as if she is sexy, erotic and grown-up. Violet knows that she is smart and can catch on quickly to any make believe game. She also loves to be the center of attention. We, of course, are watching a real 12-year-old, who is smart, loves to play act and loves to be the center of attention, pretend as if she is sexy, erotic and grown-up. Reality mirrors fiction that then mirrors reality. However there's another reality mirrors fiction mirrors reality. Violet is parented and cared for by the group of women in a loving and paradoxically protective manner. Yet, her beauty and innocence are exploited. At the film's end we believe the caring overcame the exploitation. Brooks Shields has written extensively about her over-protective mother who paradoxically exploits the beauty and innocence of her daughter. Brooke tells Terry Gross, "now as a new mother myself, I can understand and maybe be more forgiving of the excesses of my own mother." The film captures the innocence of a girl in a very sexually charged world. It contains outstanding performances of both Brooke Shields and Susan Sarandon. Yet it also captures parenting lessons for today's sexually charged world.

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