Bringing family values back to Hollywood

  • February 1, 2009
{mosimage}The spirit of Frank Capra — the Depression-era director who made such hope-filled family fare as It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington — still haunts Hollywood as America stares down its worst economy since the 1930s, according to Siobhan Fallon, the veteran Catholic character actor who co-stars with Renée Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr. in the romantic screwball comedy New In Town .

That Capra-like embrace of American ideals includes the film’s PG rating. Just weeks before New In Town’s Jan. 30 release, the movie was recut to remove mild profanities and avoid a PG-13 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America .

“I’m so happy and thrilled that they took those words out so I can proudly take my kids and their friends to this movie and not flinch when that moment comes,” Fallon told The Catholic Register.

Fallon doesn’t think all movies should be PG or that movies should show people speaking in ways that deliberately falsify real life. But some movies should be available to families, she said.

“Entertainment isn’t real any way,” Fallon said. “This movie is so beautiful and you want kids to go see it. Why not get back to what we used to do and respect our kids and want our kids to see something that’s pure?”

Fallon, 48, lives in New Jersey with her husband and three kids. After graduating from Catholic University of America in Washington with a Master of Fine Arts degree her career took off, joining the Saturday Night Live cast in 1992 and landing roles in blockbusters such as Forrest Gump and Men in Black.

For New In Town Fallon plays a Jesus-loving, homemaking, scrapbooking employee of a faltering cheese factory.

“What I  loved about this script is that this is a Christian woman who is not made fun of,” she said. “In this day and age you don’t see that very much. Normally they make fun. They turn these women into Tammy Faye Bakker and they make fools of  these characters. In this movie it’s not done at all, it’s the other way around.”

It’s the urban, sophisticated, career-driven Lucy Hill, played by Zellweger, who is the butt of jokes in New In Town. Hill shows up in small-town Minnesota in high heels and designer suits tasked with cutting jobs and squeezing more out of the town’s one employer.

In the course of discovering that she prefers small-town middle America to her big city life, Hill gives in to the town’s own plans for the cheese factory.

“They just all  have a simple human desire, which is to support their families,” explains Fallon. “And everybody supports their families — not eliminate one job or two jobs, but everyone be fairly treated.”

When the New In Town crew gathered in Winnipeg last winter to start filming they didn’t know the U.S. economy would tank six months later, said Fallon. As it turns out, New In Town  is a more timely story than they imagined. But it’s also timeless, said Fallon.

“It’s really a beautiful depiction of American values and everybody coming together.”

Nor is it a story which pits red states versus blue states or carves out territory in America’s culture wars, according to Fallon.

“I think it’s just America without politics. It’s America in a recession — America in trouble. It’s the America we have now, with the little guys in factories being hurt and CEOs coming in and not having any feeling for the little guy.”

Hollywood’s power to distill such truths in a story makes the movies important, said Fallon.

“I don’t think Catholics should be afraid of Hollywood,” she said. “There’s people you have to be afraid of wherever you go, but you cannot be afraid of the unknown.”

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