Review

A failing grade for 'Miss Meadows'

Review: Miss Meadows is the kind of character who exists only in movies untroubled by imagination.

In "Miss Meadows," Katie Holmes wears vintage flower print dresses, drives a 1956 Metropolitan Nash, dotes on the grade-schoolers she substitute teaches, corrects grammar and, when given the opportunity, kills offenders she considers blots on society.

It's a lot to ask of any actress to walk that line between schoolmarm parody and gun-toting badass, because Miss Meadows is the kind of character who exists only in movies untroubled by imagination. The real problem, however, is that her creator, Karen Leigh Hopkins, making her feature directing debut, is never entirely clear who or what Miss Meadows is from scene to scene: Funny? (She's not.) Scary? (Not that, either.) Sad? (Well, you feel for Holmes. …)

Besides never knowing where to stick a camera, or how long a given scene should last, Hopkins quickly ditches any potentially subversive joy in her cartoon vigilante by saddling her with a redemptive love story opposite James Badge Dale's kind-eyed sheriff. A traumatic past regarding her mother (Jean Smart) muddies up the tone more.

Then there's the movie's cheaply exploitative use of the threat of child abuse as a last-act suspense ploy.

May we be excused, "Miss Meadows"?

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"Miss Meadows."

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.

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