“I got sunshine, on a cloudy day. When it’s cold outside I got the month of may. I guess you say, what can make me feel this way. My girl. My girl. My girl.” For anyone who hears these words it elicits one of three possible reactions; 1) Their brain snaps to attention and their singing voice (whether they have one or not) starts to fill in the rest. 2) They think to themselves “Good tune” and quietly enjoy the melody to themselves. or 3) They immediately get excited and exclaim “Great movie!” followed by reminiscing of an 11-year-old hypochondriac called Vada and her “allergic to everything” best friend, Thomas J.
In 1991 the world met Vada Sultenfuss. Not your typical heroine, it was amazing that adults, teenagers and children alike were able to embrace the coming-of-age tale about an 11-year-old morticians daughter so well. In fact, better than well, the film’s success made way for a sequel three years later and ensured that we’d still be talking about it a quarter of a century later.
I was just seven when ‘My Girl’ was released. So excited to see the new movie with the ‘Home Alone’ kid in it, all that excitement disappeared one hour and forty-two minutes later. I’d just watched “Kevin McCallister die, forever cementing my fear of bees, and I was now chock of questions like Why was Vada bleeding? What’s an Undertaker? Where’s Vada’s mum? What’s prostate cancer? and Mum, can I live in a camper like Shelly? Obviously not all were answered at the time, or even by the time the sequel came out, in fact most were met with an “I’ll tell you when you’re older”, to this day I’m still waiting and I never did get that camper.
Ironically, given it’s mature content, this film about a once in a lifetime friendship between two 11-year-olds was rated PG-13; meaning children the same age as the protagonists were advised against seeing it. Well played. Like I said, I was seven when I first saw it and as much as I loved it then and still do today, that scene, you all know the one I’m talking about, will haunt me and bring me to tears forever.
Star Anna Chlumsky had appeared in only one film previous to her breakout and first staring roll as Vada. Coincidently it was ‘Uncle Buck’ as an extra with Macaulay. Oh the difference two years can make. Now Anna was the star and Macaulay a supporting actor despite his career defining turn in the smash ‘Home Alone’ just one year earlier. But what an even bigger difference 25 years can make. Macaulay became THE child actor before succumbing to the child-actor curse. He grew up, kept being talented but stopped being cute and bankable thanks to the drugs and alcohol. He’s still seen from time to time but these days it’s his younger siblings that are making waves in Hollywood. Anna, however, bucked the trend. ‘My Girl’ was it for her for a while. She got work but nothing of note, this is of course until she landed a spot next to television comedy goddess Julia Louis-Dreyfus on the hit show ‘Veep’. And there’s she’s been for the last five seasons and counting.
I was seven when I first saw it and as much as I loved it then and still do today, that scene, you all know the one I’m talking about, will haunt me and still bring me to tears forever.
Whenever I write one of these retrospectives there’s always a point where I get a wave of disappointment as I think and realise, they just don’t make them like this anymore. And then I kick myself while I’m down by thinking, if this movie was pitched today would it get made? And the answer is usually no. When did the world stop making ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘My Girl’ and start making ‘American Pie’ and ‘Road Trip’? When did “coming of age” stop meaning coming of age and start meaning “losing ones virginity”? I’m serious. Have you ever tried explaining ‘My Girl’ to someone today? “Well, it’s about an 11-year-old hypochondriac. Her mum’s dead and he dad’s a mortician and she’s best friends with a boy who’s allergic to everything with over-protective parents...” PASS! Why would anyone watch that when they could watch Fast and the Furious 37? or Paranormal Activity 28?
When I reccommend great movies to my future teenage niece and nephew, it would be nice if just one of them was made in the last 20 years. I’d also like them to see a world where kids ride bikes for fun, climb trees, swap blood without fear of disease and there’s not a mobile phone to be seen.
Regardless, I will show them ‘My Girl’ because it’s fantastic and a classic. It’ll teach them about true friendship, grief, growing up, moving on and the beauty in an innocent first kiss. I’ll just wait until my niece is at least 13 so she won’t spend the next seven years wondering if every little pang in her belly is her “hemorrhaging” like I did. Damn you ‘My Girl’. You know, in all the articles I’ve read about the production and behind-the-scenes tidbits no one actually mentioned whether a 10-year-old Anna Chlumsky even knew what she was talking about back then. Great, there’s something else that will haunt me forever.
I’ve got so much honey, the bees envy me...