blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Miss Meadows (2014, Karen Leigh Hopkins)

There are so many things wrong with Miss Meadows, it’s hard to know where to start. There are easy pickings, like Jeff Cardoni’s music. There are complicated pickings, like the film’s suburban mama bear fascist “everywhere you look there’s a pedophile no one will take care of, check that pizza shop basement” message. There’s the acting. Wow, is there the acting. But with the acting, much has to do with director Hopkins, her script, and Joan Sobel’s editing.

Because Miss Meadows isn’t just tedious; it’s exasperating.

The film opens with Hopkins’s best moment. Lead Katie Holmes walks down a suburban street where she gets accosted by a guy in a pickup truck, who threatens her with a gun if she doesn’t get in. So she shoots him dead. But before that interaction, she does a tap dance number. Hopkins cuts from Holmes walking to close-up on the tap-dancing feet, so it seems like it’s not Holmes (it’s probably not), but then they cut to Holmes tap dancing. She can do it, after all.

Best directing in the movie.

It’s like two minutes in, and Miss Meadows runs eighty-nine minutes. The story peaks in the first act, as Holmes meets local sheriff James Badge Dale, and they have a whirlwind romance. She’s a prim and proper substitute teacher (who threatens school administrators to keep the position, which the film drops right after introducing it), who also just happens to be a vigilante of the Charles Bronson Death Wish variety. Wherever she goes, she just happens across sexual predators or spree killers, and only Holmes can save the day.

Worse yet, they’re releasing a couple thousand felons early because of overcrowding, and it’s all the violent pedophile ones. For a while, the movie’s so on the nose you think it’s going to be about Holmes realizing Black and brown people get banged up for all sorts of bullshit by the corrupt criminal justice system and having to reexamine her hobby. But, nope. Miss Meadows does not, to its “credit,” villainize Black or brown men. There’s one Black guy—Dale’s sidekick, Stephen Bishop—otherwise, all white people. Holmes talks shit on the phone about the school she’s teaching at with all these poor kids. The Catholic Church is (not wrongly) demonized, but Holmes’s a good Christian girl who can’t stop talking about God. Apparently, the cops don’t do enough, including Dale, so it’s up to ladies like Holmes to keep the streets safe.

Of course, the one time Holmes really needs to be keeping someone safe, that person’s only a target because of Holmes’s shortsighted bravado.

It’s a messy, dull script with really long, really boring scenes, where Hopkins points the camera at actors and runs them to the ground. It’s worst with the kids in Holmes’s class; Hopkins isn’t good at writing the kids, but she’s worse at directing them. It’s excruciating, with Holmes not helping. When it seems like Holmes is in on the joke, she’s potentially charming. But there’s no joke; Meadows is just an ostensibly quirky Death Wish clone, and Holmes’s charmless in it. Especially once Dale becomes convinced she’s the vigilante. When Holmes has to act opposite suspicious Dale, Meadows crashes through the floor, plummeting towards the next new bottom.

Barry Markowitz’s photography is surprisingly good, and Jennifer Klide’s production design is solid. Otherwise, Miss Meadows is a complete waste of time. Including Jean Smart’s cameo; it’s definitely not her fault it’s pointless—it’s Hopkins’s fault; I didn’t even realize you could waste Jean Smart like Hopkins does.

At least it’s not eighty-nine and a half minutes. Or, heaven forbid–ninety.

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