I have always had a problem when someone (or an Internet quiz) asks me what my favorite movie is.
1. Movies are not my medium of choice. Television is.
2. Several come to mind, but none seem good enough to be called my all-time favorite.
But when I pulled Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael off my overflowing DVD shelf today, I knew that I might have a winner. I have watched this movie numerous times over the years.
Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael is a movie starring Winona Ryder. Now, you might think that an 80’s movie starring Winona Ryder was of course a huge hit. But it wasn’t. You probably have never even heard of it. It was more offbeat than her usual offbeat.
I think the biggest reason it was not a hit was that it was a very 80’s movie…that came out in 1990. By then, the world was moving on from big hair and poofy clothes. It actually works in the movie, because it takes place in tiny Clyde, Ohio. You are supposed to get the impression that they are rural and behind the times. But that didn’t come across in the movie previews.
The main young guy in the movie that has a crush on Winona’s character, and she on him, isn’t exactly heartthrob material. Instead of a Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles, Gerald is more of a wannabe Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. We see how much he cares for Dinky by how he stalks her.
Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael also suffers because while it stars Ryder, much of the action and story of the film focuses on the adults around her in her life. Her adopted parents struggle with Ryder’s antisocial behavior. Ryder herself clings on to her guidance counselor and the local landscaper as mother and father role models, respectively. (Whoa. I never quite realized that until I just now typed it.) We also become involved in the life of the former best friend who is returning to town, which leads us to…
The fact that while the movie is called Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael, and Winona Ryder is the lead, she does not, in fact, play Roxy Carmichael. Ryder plays Dinky Bossetti. The audience never even SEES Roxy Carmichael’s face, and SPOILER ALERT, Roxy never, in fact, returns home.
So, it is a teen movie featuring adults. Or an adult movie with teens, I’m not sure. It is a movie behind its time in fashion and moral. But a bit ahead of its time, in that it does contain a big gay reveal for two of its characters. And a disappointing departure for a Winona Ryder film, in that she does not in fact lose her virginity in this one 😦
I believe I always deeply connected with this film not because of the large amount of carpet samples, but because it shows that no matter what your family looks like, as a teenager, you just don’t fit. Anywhere. EVER!
I watched this movie the morning of my high school graduation on HBO. It perfectly echoed everything I felt about my school career that would be officially ending in a few hours. From the scene where Dinky tries to make herself more attractive, only to end up on the school bus floor, to finding that you can’t make the world fit what you want it to be, you have to find a way to fit into your world (wow, deep).
The bus floor grime is highly realistic. So are the cafeteria horrors that she endures. The costumer dresses her in dog tags, hoodies, and boots to illustrate her anti-social tendencies.
Wait…that is what I wore in high school. Hmmm. Was I too cool to care what I looked like? Ahead of my time? Or just horribly dorky? These are rhetorical questions.
There was something fitting about her sitting on the lawn in the pink floofy dress, eating ice cream with Gerald and his new braces at the end that made me know everything would still be hard, but it would be OK.
Many other great things about this movie that I would rather list than try to fit into paragraph form:
My favorite quote from the movie:
“It’s good to want things.”
Dinky says it to Gerald, and he later turns around and uses it on her. It is applicable to tons of real-life situations.
Gosh, and I forgot to mention Melissa Etheridge’s great version of the central song in the movie “In Roxy’s Eyes (I Will Never Be The Same)”. We find out that Roxy Carmichael is only famous because a singer made her the object of a hit song. But, as an audience, we believe it, because Etheridge wrote and belts out a REALLY great song.
Or the other fine quote: “I’m gonna laugh at you someday Gerald Howells.” I want to say that to many of my former classmates.
Or the work of the always excellent Jeff Daniels, proud Michigan native, resident (30 miles to my north in the land of Jiffy Mixes), and friend of Adrian College. Daniels always plays such likeable characters, and he is good-looking. My best friend and I were going to stalk him one night, but she was driving and she chickened out. (I would not have.)
The school counselor: That’s a funny analogy.
Dinky: I’m here to amuse.
AND ALMOND ROCAS! Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael really plays as a giant Almond Roca commercial. I had never heard of this candy until I saw this movie. And then it would be another 20 years before I would actually see them in stores and try them. Soooo yummy, by the way.
“Dave, don’t be a cliché.” In the movie, this is told to a pig trying to steal another animal’s food. I tell it to my dog when she tries to pee on fire hydrants.
The movie also featured a great supporting cast of Dinah Manoff, Stephen Tobolowsky, Robin Thomas, and Micole Mercurio.
I feel like I am the only person out there who ever saw and/or loved this movie. Although that cannot be true, because it was released in DVD. So, if you are out there, please give me a shoutout.
BONUS MOM RANT: Oh, and FYI, the morning of my high school graduation my mom wanted to clean the bathroom after her shower, but before mine, so that when my gramma came, it would be clean. Except my gramma came over once a month or so, she had seen our bathroom dirty before. And my mom almost made me late for my own graduation because she just had to clean the bathroom.
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You are not the only one!! I loved this movie too!!
Ya! Then two people have actually seen it! It is the greatest 80s movie to come out in 1990.
I saw this movie when it first premiered in theaters and adored the story and aesthetics.
All these years and children later, I’m planning on buying black boots and pink laces.
The movie is an underated for sure.
Thank you for the intelligent article btw.
I love this movie too and you really captured everything that I love about it. It is definitely underrated.
I am glad there are more fans out there.
Thank you so much for this fantastic review, that was so nice to read. My spirit feel particular emotion with this movie because I’ve always seem happy and sad at the same time. The reason is that I never stop to imagine a passionate love story with Dinky, being with her in the recluse boat near the small city of Clyde, but with disappointment, that’s totally impossible. My only personal pleasures about this movie, outside my imagination, is watch the DVD and listen the score by Thomas Newman on cassette tape (I’m very sensitive with the complete soundtrack, a moment to collect myself). Overall, I can say that’s my favorite movie with Winona Ryder and my favorite period from her career. Greetings from France!
Wow. Thank you for commenting internationally!
I hadn’t thought about this film in a very long time. In fact, even though I saw it in the theater, too, and many more times in the comfort of the living room of my childhood home, it took me a few minutes to remember the name of it when an ad came on while my husband and I were watching tv a week or two ago. The image of Ferrero Roche in that ad brought to mind Almond Roca, and you know exactly where my brain went… because it’s sort of like we share one. At least in the context of Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael! My thoughts went immediately from Almond Roca to “that quirky Winona Ryder movie.”
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve said, “It’s good to want things.” in the last 25+ years. And just last week, we were in civilization for the Thanksgiving holiday (visiting family in southeastern Wisconsin; we live just south of Ironwood, MI, though I’ve never bumped into Jeff Daniels) and, therefore, we walked our dogs around neighborhoods with fire hydrants. I found myself saying on nearly every walk, “Wesley, don’t be a cliché.” (He was. Is.) I didn’t even make the connection between that phrase and the movie until I read your blog. It’s crazy how these things become encoded in our neurons when we’re young and just become and stay part of us!
Since this movie returned to my consciousness, I have tried to find it, in its entirety, online. (my search for the film is what got me to your blog tonight. haha) No such luck finding the full movie… yet. I’d love to see the whole thing again. But, in the meantime, the clips you provided have touched me, renewed, or illuminated, connections between the 15-year-old me and the “now” me. I am reminded how profoundly I have been affected by the cultural and historical context in which I came of age, how we all have been, but few think much about. I am profoundly grateful for the unique combination of movies and tv shows, books and music, performance and studio art, and the large, small, and no-towns I have experienced that have made me uniquely me… and, even though I still don’t fit, it’s ok.
Welcome Home, indeed, because it’s like a return to oneself.
I’m glad to have found another Roxy Carmichael fan, or 5 (in a world of billions!).
Thank you for your blog.
Thank you so much for your comments. Happy to meet another Michigander and a Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael fan. And I am bummed you have never bumped into Jeff Daniels. I never have either, even though a live within a half hour of Chelsea where he lives.
Wow, do I feel like an idiot now… we are quite further apart geographically than I initially thought… Jeff Daniels is a local favorite and semi-frequent visitor, not because he grew up nearby, but because of his film Escanaba in da Moonlight, and the fact that Escanaba isn’t too terribly far away. If I was any kind of proper Wisconsinite, and, therefore, a hunter, I’d have known that. As you already know, Chelsea, his actual home ground, is not at all close to anyone close to Escanaba, or Ironwood… I, on the other hand, am just now becoming better acquainted with maps of the United States of America (and the life stories of celebrities) 😂
You are not an idiot, and I am familiar with his ties to the U.P., but I know that he resides in Chelsea. I love hearing from Wisconsinites 😉 Fun fact: I attended Adrian College. Jeff was always pictured in the slide shows and they would always say “Jeff Daniels, friend of Adrian College.” I never saw him there. He must have just donated some money!
Absolutely love this movie….I always felt like I was the only one who appreciated it!!