Goldie Hawn makes her debut as the director of a TV movie Review: Actress goes behind the camera to make 'Hope,' about a girl's coming of age in the troubled South of the '60s.

On the Air

October 19, 1997|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Filmmakers never seem to tire of making films about how hard it was growing up amid the racial turbulence that rocked the Deep South in the early 1960s.

The latest to join the ranks is Goldie Hawn, who makes her directorial debut at 8 tonight on TNT with the carefully layered and well-acted "Hope."

The film stars Jena Malone, who was so impressive as an abused child in "Bastard Out of Carolina." Malone plays Lilly Kate Burns, a young girl living with her maternal aunt in a small Southern town called Hope. (The name should clue you in that this won't be a downer.)

Lilly Kate doesn't want very much in life, just to become a prima ballerina and to learn more about her mother, who's been reduced to sitting quietly in a wheelchair since suffering a stroke a few years back. Two people are standing in the girl's way: Aunt Emma (Christine Lahti), whom events -- her sister's a vegetable, her husband's a philanderer and the Reds are building missiles down in Cuba -- have turned into pretty much an emotional wreck, and Uncle Ray (J. T. Walsh), who's not only a cheating husband and a bigot, but also the town's No. 1 businessman.

Those hindrances, however, are more than counterbalanced by Miss Muriel (Catherine O'Hara), the local dance teacher (and object of Ray's affections) and Lilly Kate's classmate, Billy October (Lee Norris), an artistically inclined free soul who's both her best friend and kindred spirit.

As are most youngsters, Lilly Kate is into rebelling, which in her case takes the form of sassing her aunt and uncle and freely associating with the town's blacks -- in the days when the law allowed black men to be pulled over simply for driving with a white woman in the front seat.

Stirring things up is Jediah Walker (Jeffrey D. Sams), who walks into town one afternoon and immediately earns Uncle Ray's ire because he A) is black and B) acts the equal of any white man. A few days later, when a young black boy is killed in a fire and only Lilly Kate knows the truth about who was responsible, Jediah's left with the job of persuading her to defy her town, her culture and her family by telling the truth.

Young Malone is a revelation as Lilly Kate, a blossoming steel magnolia, full of energy and charm. But she's also a kid with a lot to learn, and Malone's face never lets us forget that.

Hawn's direction is sure-handed and unobtrusive, letting the actors tell the story without unnecessary tricks. If "Hope" has a fault, it's in the script by Kerry Kennedy. Her characters are nicely textured, but the story's nothing new, and it's full of stock characters -- the stubborn father-figure whose views have become obsolete, the heroic white woman who stood up to prejudice and paid the price, the drink-besotted Southern belle who knows more than she lets on. And, she allows the story to hinge on having a character do the right thing -- even when there's no indication the character ever wanted to do the right thing.

Still, "Hope" is a quiet, thoughtful, well-acted piece of work filled with what its title suggests, and that's not a bad way to spend a Sunday evening.

Radio hits

The Orioles may have crashed and burned in the ALCS, but their season helped at least one Baltimore institution claw its way back to the top.

WBAL-AM (1090), which last quarter ceded its top spot in the local Arbitron ratings to WERQ-FM (92.3), rode the O's coattails to a narrow win over the still-impressive 92-Q.

For the three-month period ending Sept. 30, WBAL averaged approximately 1,000 more listeners than WERQ. No other station finished within two share points of the leaders.

WQSR-FM (105.7), thanks largely to the continued early-morning dominance of its Rouse & Co. team among listeners ages 25-54, finished third, with an average of approximately 1,400 more listeners than fourth-place WPOC-FM (93.1).

The latest ratings provided good and bad news for WPOC, which spent the first part of the decade trading-off the top spot with WBAL. While its fourth-place ranking was the lowest in at least five years, its average listenership remained steady from last quarter.

The award for the biggest ratings jump goes to the revamped WXYV-FM, which climbed from 11th place to 8th and increased its average listenership by 1,500.

That comes as good news to programmers there, who four months ago scrapped the station's long-standing Urban Contemporary format in favor of Contemporary Hit Radio -- a dance-oriented format designed to extend WXYV's appeal beyond its traditionally African-American audience.

While the Orioles' success undoubtedly helped WBAL (which always performs well in the summer ratings), the team's early exit from the postseason could help 92-Q regain the top spot when the next ratings book comes out, in January.

For all you numbers-crunchers out there, here is the summer '97 Arbitron rankings and audience share for listeners 12 and older for Baltimore's top 10 radio stations. Each share represents about 3,700 listeners in an average quarter-hour.

1. WBAL, 9.4

2. WERQ, 9.2

3. WQSR, 6.8

4. WPOC, 6.4

5. WWMX-FM (106.5), 5.5

6. WLIF-FM (101.9), 5.3

7. WIYY-FM (97.9), 3.9

8. WXYV, 3.8

9. WHFS-FM (99.1), 3.7

10. WWIN-FM (95.9), 3.6

Pub Date: 10/19/97

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