A gentle satire which pokes fun at the Southern California Young American Miss pageant and the hollow post-Vietnam values of America. Condenses all that was groovy about the 70s into two hours.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2007
“Just be yourself, and smile!” gushes Brenda DiCarlo (Barbara Feldon) to the 23 teenage contestants in Southern California’s Young American Miss pageant, who are about to be drilled, choreographed, gowned and cross-examined until they burst into tears and one of them collapses. Underneath the grins and glitter, the true spirit of Americana is revealedhere as a post-Vietnam existential hole. Yet Smile’s touch is gentle; the satire pointed but never savage. Its characters’ foibles are generously and poignantly observed, none more so than those of chief judge, “Big Bob” Freelander (Bruce Dern), who realises that the pageant’s hollow core has entered his very being. At its centre the film explores the lack ofintercourse, both social and private, between men and women, and how beauty pageants only serve to exacerbate the divide. The teen girls brim with talent, including Melanie Griffith, already perky at 18. “Smile, from its groovy opening credits on, is like a season of I Love the 70s condensed into two hours.” — Jake Euker, filmcritic.com