Outside Providence

Directed by Michael Corrente
Starring: Shawn Hatosy, Amy Smart, Alec Baldwin.
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive teen drug use and strong language including sexual references.

Review by Matt Heffernan
September 1, 1999

Do you remember reading John Knowles' A Separate Peace in school? If you don't, then you're lucky. Imagine if it was actually good, and funny on purpose. Hopefully, someday Peter Farrelly's novel, Outside Providence, on which this film is based, will replace the former novel in the curricula of all schools in America.

Farrelly and his brother, Bobby, the writer/directors of Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary wrote this screenplay, with the help of director Michael Corrente. Under his direction the film takes a more realistic approach to the Farrelly's material, which works here. Shawn Hatosy plays Timothy Dunphy, a teenage boy in 1974 who is called "Dildo" by his loving father (Alec Baldwin). After rear-ending a parked police car while smoking pot and driving without a license, he is sent to a prep school in Connecticut. Now he has to get a haircut and leave his stoner buddies back in Pawtucket, R.I.

At the academy, he meets a girl named Jane (Amy Smart) from the sister school, and they fall in love. She is on a track for the Ivy League, while he is barely passing in order to avoid jail. Timothy has a hard time at school, but his relationship with Jane helps him escape the constricting environment.

The same style of humor is used in this film that is seen in the previous Farrelly films. There is a delicate balance of broad humor and humanity. Other filmmakers try to do this, but usually fail. Corrente has a similar background to the Farrellys, but has a different style. He knows these characters just as well, and has the ability to show all the facets of their personalities.

The film is very funny, and it's also poignant. American Pie expected us to digest a lot of sentimentality after a huge, bawdy comedy appetizer. This film doesn't try to force the characters to be sentimental. Instead it cleverly mixes insights with the laughs, so that we believe the resulting action.

The future of Outside Providence in schools is admittedly doubtful. It doesn't exactly have a "Just Say No to Drugs" message. The characters smoke pot and drink a lot, and it is never really addressed as being a bad thing. So, it's not really for kids, but that's why it was rated R. It is a film about teenagers that is actually for adults.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Outside Providence (1999)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Outside Providence (1999) -- VHS
Outside Providence (1999) -- DVD
Outside Providence, a novel by Peter Farrelly -- Paperback
Outside Providence: Music From The Miramax Motion Picture -- Compact Disc

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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan