Julia Stiles as Carolina
Alessandro Nivola as Albert Morris
Shirley MacLaine as Grandma Mirabeau
Mika Boorem as Maine Mirabeau
Azura Skye as Georgia Mirabeau
Edward Atterton as Heath Pierson
Randy Quaid as Ted Mirabeau
Dwight Armstrong as Snake
Anna Ortiz as Christen
Jennifer Coolidge as Aunt Marilyn
Ambyr Childers as Young Carolina
Daveigh Chase as Young Georgia Mirabeau
John Capodice as Ernie The Cook
Behind the Scenes featurette
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 98 Minutes
This film was originally released in 2003. Here’s the text from the DVD cover:
“Julia Stiles (Mona Lisa Smile) and Academy Award-winner Shirley MacLaine (1983 Best Actress, Terms of Endearment) star in Carolina, the endearing romantic comedy about a young woman (Stiles) trying to escape the eccentric ways of her wacky Southern family and meet the man of her dreams — a nice, normal available guy. Finding him appears easier said than done until she meets a handsome and debonair Englishman. Will Carolina’s dream turn into a nightmare when she introduces her perfect guy to her less-than-perfect family? And what will her best friend Albert have to say? As funny and charming as Sweet Home Alabama, this Southern belle is sure to sweep you off your ever-loving feet.”
Carolina is rated PG-13 for sexual content.
Going into Carolina, I really wanted to like the movie. I like Julia Stiles, I like the supporting cast, and I was up for a romantic comedy. Unfortunately, Carolina failed on almost every level. The characters weren’t particularly likable, a lot of potential plotlines went nowhere, and the story was way too reminiscent of other films that were better made.
Carolina features a redneck family in which Carolina is the black sheep because she is normal. The filmmakers do everything in their power to make them seem quirky and lovable, but they are unsuccessful. Shirley MacLaine’s character Grandma Mirabeau spouts “down home” country sayings, racist comments, and is generally obnoxious and we’re supposed to find her charming. She’s surrounded by a host of other white trash characters like bikers, hookers, and madams that we’re supposed to believe are Carolina’s beloved clan. This is very similar to Sweet Home Alabama, but the characters were much more likable and Reese Witherspoon’s character seemed much more a part of the misfits.
This movie also redoes the clichéd plot of a girl’s male best friend being unable to express his love for her until some competition comes along. This has been done in a lot of other films and it has been done more effectively. Carolina and her friend are way too friendly for her to be so clueless about his romantic interests. I mean, she gets out of a bubble bath naked and he towels her off, yet she thinks this is a normal thing for best friends to be doing. Huh? And when the charming competition arrives, he stirs things up a little and is then cast aside for the rest of the film. He served very little purpose to the story. It goes on from there, but you get the idea.
Carolina had a lot of potential but it never totally fulfilled it. For example, Carolina works on a dating TV show pairing people up. This had a lot of comedy potential, but it ultimately has little relevance to the plot. They could have done more with it for her character. Carolina’s friend is also secretly a romance novelist, but the humor of this is only occasionally touched on. More could have been done with it as well. The film also starts out as a comedy then ends up as a depressing drama. It should have chosen one genre or the other and stuck with it. I think the main problem is that the movie was trying to do so much and go down so many different paths that it never fully realized what it was attempting to do.
Despite being a confused mess, Carolina did have a few things going for it. Julia Stiles is pretty, talented, and a pleasure to watch. I don’t think many actresses could have carried the film as far as she did. Carolina also features a strong supporting cast including favorites like Randy Quaid. There are even fun cameos by Barbara Eden as an over-the-top actress and Alan Thicke as a smarmy dating show host. It’s fun to see them again. The film also features Ambyr Childers who looks shockingly like a young Julia Stiles. She looked so close to Stiles that I half thought they had shot footage of her years ago when she was younger. It was some brilliant casting.
I think if you’re looking for a romantic comedy, then there are better films out there that are worth checking out first. However, if you’re a fan of Julia Stiles or Shirley MacLaine and you don’t care what film they’re in, then you’ll enjoy Carolina. It’s cute and quirky, but not terribly original or well executed.
The only bonus feature included on this DVD is a brief behind the scenes video featuring your standard interviews with the cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, and more.
The Bottom Line:
Carolina is probably worth checking out if you’re a die-hard Julia Stiles or Shirley MacLaine fan, but it’s not terribly original or well executed for a romantic comedy.