Monday, 22 May 2017

Winona: Coming of Age Girl

© Melissa Gaggiano

For many Molly Ringwald, embodied the quintessential eighties teenage girl with her funky, make-do, both sides of the track, low BS threshold. And although I am a child of the eighties I was too young for Molly, but that’s okay because as I headed into the twilight of my own childhood a certain waifish creature by the name of Winona was riding [see what I just did?] a new wave of film roles that encompassed ‘coming of age’.  Since Winona was ever so mildly closer to my age it was inevitable that she would become one of my teenage idols.
What was it about Winona that made her so perfect for the ‘coming of age’ roles that she earned? Acting credibility was a given, yes. Was it also her petite form and those large chocolate eyes that conveyed at any moment darkness, sweet sadness and quirky hilarity at any given moment?
Let’s take a look at ‘coming of age’ Winona:

Square Dance
Winona plays a bible reading country girl, Gemma. She is a girl with a rigid moral compass. Out of frustration she leaves her grandpa to join her city dweller, fortune hopeful hairdresser mum. Gemma befriends Rory, a boy-man with the mental maturity of a child, and together they play house, pretending to be a married couple. The sweetness of this interaction turns bitter when Gemma is hurt and disappointed when Rory’s combined simpleness and adult desires are taken advantage of. This almost might have been a coming of age story, except for the fact that Gemma ultimately sees that she is not ready in any capacity to join the adult world. Instead she chooses to return to the familiar comfort of life out in the country and her grandpa, and thereby, her childhood.

Meet the morose Lydia, an unimpressed, analogue camera wielding, gothicly dressed teenager, with a reckless amount of hairspray [I mean, hello, what about the O-zone hole?]. Lydia’s self-awareness as ‘strange and unusual’ appears to be nothing more than a call for attention. Learning to live with ghosts, whose own lives were tragically cut short, gives Lydia a freshly profound respect for having a heart beat. Of course almost getting hitched to an undead bio-exorcist is enough to make anyone grow up quick smart. Here’s to a healthy lifestyle!

Nothing says coming of age like having mean girlfriends and murderous boyfriends. Veronica is invited into the inner sanctum of the meanest girls on the block. But Veronica doesn’t make a good drone and it isn’t long before Veronica and her boyfriend, JD, are taking down the social bitch/bastard hierarchy that is high school. Oh yeah, and as for the coming of age stuff, Veronica loses her virginity, stands up to the queen bees, saves the school, and is kind to the girl in the wheel chair. How’s that for personal development? Yep! There’s a new sheriff in town.

Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael
Winona is Dinky. No, really! That’s her name in this one. And Dinky is an adopted orphan who’s so far gone she doesn’t even qualify for the tomboy award. She has scruffy hair, disturbingly dark eyes that see straight through the people who have the honour of pissing her off. She has painted her room black and locks herself up in it when she is home [nothing says keep out like a dozen bedroom door locks]. On the flipside Dinky is an animal lover, and is a true poet. Dinky’s coming of age happens when the town goes crazy for legendary Roxy Carmichael’s return. Dinky connects the dots and suspects that she is the biological daughter of Roxy. This belief manifests in Dinky choosing to make an effort in her relationships… oh my god she grows up. Toot the coming of age horns.

Charlotte is a young girl with a fish for a sister and a mum, Mrs Flax, who is both the coolest and hottest thing since star sliced ham sandwiches. Charlotte spends a lot of her time dreaming of becoming a nun, even as her mum so pointedly says, ‘Charlotte, we’re Jewish’. She also makes herself miserable with the teen angsty feelings she has for Joe the local handyman who helps out at the local nunnery [ding-dong!]. Then there’s her wanderings of who her dad could possibly be, what with the men in her mother’s life being turned over more times than the engine on the car motor. Charlotte’s coming of age comes with having a spiritual experience with Joe the handyman in the nunnery watchtower [talk about killing two birds with one stone]; plus the trauma of her sister the fish near drowning as a result of underage drinking [just don’t do it kids]. Both Charlotte and Mrs Flax have the double whammy of accepting that they both have some growing up to do and are more alike than they previously wanted to admit. The coming of age quota on this film is super high.


Winona transitions from being the black wearing, rebel without a flaming clue and becomes Patty, the much older, fully mature, object of fascination for John, an intellectial teenage boy who is stuck at an all boys boarding school, surrounded by unimpressed teachers and asinine let’s-get-wasted asshole buddies. Talk about your nineties sausage fest! Really this is John’s coming of age story, but it is worth a mention because this film felt like a graduation for Winona. Congratulations Winona! The student becomes the master.

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