The Great Gilly Hopkins, directed by Stephen Herek (101 Dalmatians) and based on Katherine Paterson’s novel of the same name, is filled with remarkable performances. My apologies to Bill Cobbs, Zachary Hernandez and Julia Stiles for not including them in my poem below. They definitely deserve praise for their work in this wonderful film. Cobbs (Call Me King) delivers a gentle turn as the blind neighbor who helps Gilly learn the value of books as well as family. Hernandez (Delivery Man) steals a few scenes of his own as Gilly’s foster brother, a child she soon decides to protect against all bullies. And although Stiles (Blackway) appears only in a couple of scenes, she makes a strong impact as Gilly’s missing mother.
Despite her anger, Gilly is
a girl worth saving – not to hiss.
She’s tossed around from place to place.
And so a frown engulfs her face.
Will Trotter teach her how to smile?
As foster mom, she won’t use guile.
Honesty, care and lots of love
fit her persona like a glove.
Acting in this family fare
ends up being something so rare.
Kathy Bates in the foster role
tugs our heartstrings and oozes soul.
Sophie Nélisse -- a fine Gilly.
She can be sad – or quite silly.
Other cast members also excel.
They play their parts so very well.
O. Spencer’s tough teacher stands out.
She sometimes makes young Gilly pout.
But important lessons this girl learns
and for much more she clearly yearns.
Watch for Glenn Close with her magic –
which comes from talent, not a trick.
She adds an elegance and style.
My verdict? Yes, this film’s worthwhile!
I enjoyed watching how Gilly changes from a wise-cracking, incorrigible 12-year old to someone who cares about others. She becomes, in fact, The Great Gilly Hopkins. Nélisse follows up her strong performance in The Book Thief by bringing Gilly to life on screen. She makes us believe in this character so deeply that we hope with all our heart she will be happy.
Author Katherine Paterson knows how to write about youngsters. Her Bridge to Terabithia novel also tells a fascinating tale concerning this age group, and the movie version turned out to be a fine motion picture too.
The Great Gilly Hopkins pulls no punches. It is not a sickly sweet movie -- but hope and humanity shine through.
(Released by Lionsgate Premiere and rated “PG” for thematic material and language.)
For more information about The Great Gilly Hopkins, please go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes web site.