In a kind of equal opportunity expansion of economic hard times cinema proclaiming that Occupy Wall Street attitude is not just for grownups, The Greening Of Whitney Brown poses the question, what’s a one percent spoiled tween coed to do when dumped CEO Dad’s credit cards are beyond maxed out. Not quite as petulant and shallow as it may sound, this class warfare comedy – both financially and academically speaking – has a stylish knack for satisfying as both silly and sobering.
Sammi Hanratty is Whitney Brown, a Philly middle school girl patrician far less interested in what’s going down in world history class, than more important stuff like popularity, pricey prom attire, upscale shopping, and getting voted in as school president no matter what. But Whitney’s frivolous good fortune vanishes when Dad Henry (Adian Quinn) suddenly finds himself out of work after his bankrupt company shuts down. And Mom Joan (Brooke Shields) offers little comfort despite her maternal support kicking in, when she announces that the now penniless family will have to abandon their McMansion and move to Henry’s rural family farm far outside Philly.
Sentenced to life in the wilderness and major tragedy like her cell phone failing to pick up a signal, Whitney remains intent on holding on to a life and school status back home that is progressively slipping away. And in no small part as a result of a jealous female rival intent on replacing her, and Whitney’s cluelessness connected to figuring out what in the world is that strange object called a pay phone, and exactly how to use it.
At the same time, an annoying horse lurking in the vicinity won’t go away, and insists on being Whitney’s new best friend. And a grumpy elderly neighbor Dusty (Kris Kristofferson) takes a protective interest in her as well, however begrudgingly, and may even turn out to be an estranged kin.
A movie directed by first timer Peter Skillman Odiorne and strictly for mature kid audiences, The Greening Of Whitney Brown is likely to keep grownup spectators in tow mildly amused too, primarily owing to Sammi’s sustained perky personality throughout. Along with Brooke Shields flexing some surprising tough love maternal instincts into this gloom and doom comedic tall tale of tween material girl recuperation. And family values as the cure for whatever ails that suddenly shopping mall-deprived generation, undergoing a sort of boot camp economic recession rehab.
2 1/2 stars