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Television Review

'Christy: The Movie' Stays True to Its Original Concept, Values

November 18, 2000|CONNIE WETHINGTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Based on Catherine Marshall's best-selling novel and continuing where the 1994-95 CBS television series left off, "Christy: The Movie" follows the early 20th century experiences of Christy Huddleston, an idealistic 19-year-old who has left the privileged city life she has known for a mission house teaching position in an impoverished Appalachian community known as Cutter Gap.

The year is 1912, and the first road into town is under construction. Christy has grown to know and respect the mountain people and their traditions. Yet when thieves begin to run amok, the locals blame the road for bringing outsiders to the cove. Consequently, resistance to the progress it will bring causes the town to become resentful of Christy's high-minded ways.

Amid this turmoil, Christy's ambitions to have a student enroll in college, along with the crash landing of a biplane piloted by female aviator Harriet Quimby, only solidify the unyielding march of progress on Cutter Gap. Also concerning Christy are her unresolved feelings for two suitors, the Rev. David Grantland (James Waterston of "Dead Poets Society") and Dr. Neil MacNeill (Stewart Finlay-McLennan from the original series), as their love triangle continues.

"Christy: The Movie" re-creates a flawless depiction of the Great Smoky Mountain locale that is integral to the feel of the film. The wonderful cinematography by Laszlo George, production design (Phil Schmidt) and costume design (Kate Healey) combine to fully transport viewers to 1912 Tennessee.

Several members of the creative team behind the series return to produce the movie, along with part of the cast. While it is sometimes difficult to accept new faces playing established characters, the mix of returning cast members eases the adjustment.

Replacing Kellie Martin, newcomer Lauren Lee Smith exudes the youthful exuberance that is needed, though her line readings and gestures seem rigid and overly deliberate. While the character may be a proper young lady, proper and stiff are not synonymous. Perhaps Smith will become more relaxed and at ease in the upcoming "Christy" miniseries that will also air on Pax.

While comparisons to the series are inevitable, fans of that earlier version and novel will find the messages are the same: respecting tradition, accepting progress, and being true to yourself and your beliefs while working for the good of everyone.

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* "Christy: The Movie" will be shown Sunday night at 9 on Pax TV and repeats Thanksgiving Day.

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