The Trouble with Angels

The Trouble with Angels ★★★★

OK, let’s get this out of the way. The Trouble With Angels is obvious, cloying, formulaic, trite, clumsy, and an unabashed attempt by Columbia Pictures to muscle into Disney’s youth market by snatching up one of their major juvenile stars, Hayley Mills, when her contract expired.

Let me also make clear I’m a sappy idiot .. , I love The Trouble With Angels.. just love it.

BTW, It’s a true story; a real life recount.

A coming of age yarn that follows the exploits of two adolescent girls as they traverse three years at St. Francis Academy; an all girls boarding school. Mischief and hi-jinks ensue as Mary, the scathingly brilliant one, and Rachel, the loyal and willing one (the author - although this is never revealed in the film), do everything in their power to drive Mother Superior around the bend.

Veteran actress / director Ida Lupino, who’s current gig was directing Gilligan’s Island, was a natural choice to bring a light comically cinematic touch to Jane Trahey’s memoirs. The original text, Life With Mother Superior, is a series of remembrances rather than a cohesive linear chronology of Trahey and her friend Mary’s time together at school. Lupino and screenwriter Blanche Hanalis capitalize on the episodic nature of their exploits to keep the pace brisk. Hanalis takes just enough artistic license to weave in some poignancy and add a bit to the story arc.

Hayley Mills plays the entitled brat, Mary, with just the right amount of mischievousness to make her likeable, ( well, loveable for some, .. not saying who ) and the right amount of earnest to make her believable. Rosalind Russell brings her considerable acting chops to the role of Mother Superior. Wry wit and pitch perfect delivery. It’s June Harding’s Rachel, though, that brings the most heart to the film. Her devotion to her BFF Mary is palpable, and her heartbreak convincing.

The real star of the show is Gerry Goldsmith’s versatile and evocative score. It turns on a dime from playful to stirring, and it sure is memorable .. at least to me. It’s the veneer that makes the film work. Normally I have a problem with a score that telegraphs every beat. I don’t know if it’s just nostalgia, but because of the fluffy and fun nature of The Trouble With Angels, I not only give it a pass, but endorse it wholeheartedly.

Seeing Mary and Rachel’s closeness and their emergence into adulthood always brings a tear. Thinking back, I probably watched it on TV right around the same time I first saw 2001 in the theatres. Angels is simple, safe and lovable. 2001, bold, mysterious, and inspiring. I feel that was a pivotal time back when I was nine years old. Not wanting to leave childhood, but being compelled to venture towards adulthood.

I still find comfort in regressing with The Trouble With Angels. To quote the band Prefab Sprout ..” Oooh Jonnie Jonnie Jonnie, you’re still in love with Hayley Mills”

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