Everyone remembers My girl. A simple, gentle film about a simple, softer time – 1972 – the story follows 11-year-old Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) over the course of a summer in Madison, Pennsylvania. Her widowed father, Harry (Dan Aykroyd) runs a funeral home and starts out with a new employee, Shelly (Jamie Lee Curtis). Meanwhile, Vada, who is a hypochondriac and a bit obsessed with death, becomes best friends with Thomas J (Macaulay Culkin), a sweet school outsider with real allergy problems. It’s all sunny and funny until everyone’s heart is torn apart – and we’re talking about the characters, me, you and anyone who’s ever seen My girl – when Thomas J dies after a bee attack. Yet the film, which opened in November of 1991, exploded into an unexpected box office hit, starring Culkin and selling a million copies of its hit-laden soundtrack.
Three years later, Columbia Pictures released the inevitable sequel, My girl 2, which will be streamed until 31 January Netflix. It seemed misleading. The first film deserved its success completely, but it spun an entire story and killed its breakaway. Who will go see a Culkin-less successor? Well, almost no one. The movie bombarded and the reviews were not friendly. A train… My girl 2 is a gem to be missed, a perfect family movie, a related story for girls on the verge of puberty, and a worthy sequel to My girl.
My girl 2 shifts the storyline to 1974 and focuses again on Vada, now 13, and quite about her fears and obsessions. She starts liking boys and they start liking her. Harry and Shelly are married and expecting their first child. Everything is fine in the world, but a school-class assignment – writing about someone you do not know – makes Vada think of her mother, Maggie. Vada starts digging into her mother’s past, but the answers can be found in LA. Harry makes Vada reluctantly board a plane to LA, where she stays with her uncle, Phil (Richard Masur). Thus begins a modest adventure that involves meeting Maggie’s first husband and several of her old friends, watching mother-in-house movies, and developing feelings for Nick (Austin O’Brien), Phil’s son ‘s girlfriend, Rose (Christine Ebersole).
It’s very syrupy, to be sure. Every scene is lushly filmed, every note of the score and song on the soundtrack is on the nose. All the characters are decent people and the whole of LA looks beautiful. Some viewers may find it sluggish, and that’s a fair critique. But, wow, the camera loves Chlumsky and she’s so remarkably natural (even in her voiceover narratives) that you’ll just smile and cry with her.
Interestingly, in 1998, at the age of 18, Chlumsky dropped out of business to attend college and pursue other career opportunities, including for several years working in book publishing. However, as she revealed in 2015 on NPR, author Harlan Ellison encouraged her to give acting another chance as an adult. “I was editing a science fiction short story collection by Harlan Ellison and he told me I should go into it again,” she said. Really! Chlumsky is so cool!
Anyway, after she started acting again, Chlumsky appeared in various shows and movies until 2012, when she landed her career-changing role as Amy Brookheimer, Chief of Staff to Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), on the comedy released, Veep, just after playing a very similar role in the excellent political satire of 2009 Up to date, with James Gandolfini and Peter Capaldi. (Also produced by Armando Iannucci!) For Veep, Chlumsky has earned six consecutive Emmy nominations for Best Supporting Actress and will be seen next in Anna finds out, a new drama series by Shonda Rhimes that will debut next month Netflix. Oh, and Chlumsky is 41 now – yes, 41 !! – and married two daughters of her own. And the eldest daughter is almost as old as Chlumsky was when she first shot My girl Movie.
My girl 2 flow on Netflix now but depart on 31 January.