- Published Date
- by Michelle Duy
I’ve loved the young adult novel The Great Gilly Hopkins since childhood. So my reaction to the news of a Hollywood movie adaptation was, “They better not screw it up.” Well, I’m happy to say my fears were unfounded, and the filmmakers did an excellent job. The Great Gilly Hopkins tells the story of Gilly (Sophie Nelisse), a 12-year-old foster girl with a serious attitude problem. Her social worker Mr. Ellis (Billy Magnussen) has just placed her in the latest of a string of homes, this one belonging to one Maime Trotter (Kathy Bates). Trotter also fosters a fearful little boy and has a blind neighborhood friend, who joins them at dinnertime (Bill Cobbs). Most everyone in her new surroundings tries to connect with prickly, sarcastic Gilly. Her responses range from contempt to outright violence.
What they don’t know is that she has one goal: to reunite with her birth mother, Courtney. If she could only do this, Gilly believes, “I’d turn from gruesome Gilly to gorgeous, gracious, good, glorious Galadriel” (her birth name). So she uses and abuses everybody around her by stealing their money, manipulating their emotions, anything possible as a means to this secret end. Without giving away too much of the plot, her ultimate plan both works and backfires.
Young Sophie Nelisse is believable as Gilly, somehow making her sympathetic in spite of her behavior. The film also has a strong supporting cast with Kathy Bates as Trotter; Octavia Spencer as teacher Miss Harris; Glenn Close as Gilly’s grandmother and Julia Stiles as not-so-maternal mother Courtney Rutherford Hopkins.
Even knowing the story well, I teared up more than once. The pace may be somewhat slow, but the characters keep you engaged. One of the themes is the unexpected nature of certain consequences to our actions. Another theme running through the story is racism, which the novel also dealt with maturely. These are topics parents can discuss with their kids.
Because the book came out in the Seventies, minor updates have been added, and other material was slightly adapted to make the plot more visual. Both of these are improvements. And even though the audience is meant to be the younger crowd, adults too will appreciate the realism and absence of corny sweetness typically found in kids’ fare.
YA author Katherine Paterson wrote the book; she also penned Bridge to Terabithia, another novel turned into a well-received movie. It just goes to show that yes, Hollywood can get these beloved books right.
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material and language.
Runtime: 99 mins
Director: Stephen Herek
Writer: David Paterson
Cast: Sophie Nélisse, Kathy Bates, Glenn Close
Genre: Family | Frama | Comedy
Tagline: Finding where you belong isn't always easy.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Stuck in another place where I hate everybody."
Theatrical Distributor: Lionsgate Premier
Release Date: October 7, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: December 6, 2016
Synopsis: 12-year-old wisecracking Gilly Hopkins finds herself shuffled from foster home to foster home until she meets Maime Trotter.
Arcady Bay Entertainment
Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
Number of discs: 1
Region: Region 1
- Making The Great Gilly Hopkins – This is a series of cast member interviews, adding insight to their characters. It gives good background info on the story and movie, but it’s the only special feature.