Everything about “Miss Meadows” feels forced.
The goal, I suppose, was some kind of social satire, a darkly funny take on vigilantism and gender roles. Nearly every note from writer-director Karen Leigh Hopkins rings sour.
I’m often asked if I ever walk out of a movie. The answer is: never. Even when the movie is awful, I believe it’s part of the job to stay through the bitter end, so I can give you a full menu of reasons why you should stay away.
However, had I seen this movie as a fan, with no obligation to write about it or talk about it or ever think about it, I would have bolted halfway through.
Katie Holmes, beautiful and looking like she’s about four years out of “Dawson’s Creek,” plays the title character, a preschool teacher who dresses like she’s in a 1950s television show, wears taps on her shoes and is prone to breaking into a little dance at any given moment, and talks with perfectly articulated grammar in a squeaky-cute voice.
Miss Meadows is something of a live-action cartoon character. Bluebirds literally follow her around, and deer prance on the suburban lawns as she walks the neighborhood. Her parting catch phrase to acquaintances is always, “Toodle-oo.”
Oh, and she carries a small pistol in her purse, and she is an amazingly accurate shot.
You see, Miss Meadows is “Mary Poppins” with a “Death Wish.” She flits from town to town, charming the children with her warmth and encouragement and cutesy lectures on manners, but all the while she’s waiting for another creep to show his fangs so she can gun him down where he stands.
James Badge Dale is the local sheriff, who begins courting Miss Meadows. (Judging by their first sexual encounter, it might be Miss Meadows’ first sexual encounter ever.) Like just about everyone else who comes into contact with Miss Meadows, this guy is slow to realize what should be obvious about two minutes after meeting this gal.
In addition to the whole tap-dancing thing, Miss Meadows has a penchant for taking every little phrase literally, as if English is her second language. But she’s a schoolteacher, so how could she not be familiar with common figures of speech?
Attempts to explain the roots of Miss Meadows’ psychotic ways only serve to muddle the picture. Jean Smart plays Mom Meadows, who tells her daughter in one of their frequent telephone conversations that God needs her help in ridding the world of men who are doing the devil’s work. Flashback sequences to Miss Meadows’ childhood aren’t as chilling as they need to be.
Meanwhile, this is some town. Simply walking down the street on a sunny day, Miss Meadows is harassed by a predator in a pickup truck who aims a gun at her and tells her to get into the vehicle. She just happens upon a mass shooting at a local fast food joint. And we get lazy stereotypes about a priest and an ice cream truck driver, and their utterly unsurprising surprising dark sides.
Of course an indie satire isn’t going for authenticity, but Miss Meadows with her little pea-shooter is more deadly at medium range than an Army Ranger with an M4 rifle. It’s ridiculous.
Holmes is a gamer in the role, but it’s really a one-note deal. Miss Meadows is prim and proper, she speaks to everyone like they’re one of the 6-year-olds in her class, she has that annoying tap-dancing habit and beneath the Disney princess persona, she’s wrestling with some ugly demons. We get it. We got it after the first half hour.
This is one of the most irritating movies of the year.