American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Pumpkin" defies description. Maybe it doesn't need a category, it needs a diagnosis. Relentlessly, and sometimes brilliantly, it forces us to decide what we really think, how permissive our taste really is, how far a black comedy can go before it goes too far. It's like a teenage sex comedy crossed with the darkest corners of underground comics. We laugh in three ways: with humor, with recognition and with disbelief.
The film stars Christina Ricci as Carolyn McDuffy, the peppiest member of a sorority house that dreams of being named Sorority of the Year. To get extra points, the house arranges to coach "special people"--handicapped and retarded athletes--and all of the girls are lined up eagerly when the buses arrive with their tutorial victims. One of them is Pumpkin Romanoff (Hank Harris), who seems to be both mentally and physically challenged, although the movie refuses to permit a verdict about his intelligence level. At first Carolyn is too awkward and embarrassed to deal with Pumpkin--everything she says seems to be offensive--but then she finds she can't get him out of her mind. Pumpkin of course has fallen instantly into love with her.
Carolyn has a boyfriend, a BMOC and tennis champion named Kent Woodlands (Sam Ball), who in his own way is also handicapped: He's too handsome, with the improbable good looks of a silent-screen idol. But she begins to spend more time with Pumpkin, who at first seems ill-equipped for his chosen sport of discus throwing (he can't stand or throw) but works out tirelessly in his backyard to get in shape.
Pumpkin's mother, Judy (Brenda Blethyn), is an alcoholic who coddles her son and then puts him down. She sees Carolyn as a threat, and when she finds the two in bed together she calls her a slut and a pedophile. This raises an interesting point, since Pumpkin is apparently about 15 or 16, but sex between older women and younger men seems permitted in the movies even though it's taboo the other way around.
At the ripe age of 89, Oscar can still be a notoriously picky fellow when it comes to what constitutes a contender fo...