The Magic of Belle Island
Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I was sitting at home, looking at the four walls and taking a break from reading when I decided to watch a movie. I wanted something I had never heard of that might turn out to be pretty decent. The Magic of Belle Isle, directed by Rob Reiner and starring Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen, had potential so I decided to check it out.
Monte Wildhorn (Morgan Freeman) is a handicapped writer best known for his westerns. Having lapsed into alcoholism after the death of his wife, Monte hasn't written anything for quite some time. He is intent on feeling sorry for himself and drowning that sorrow in as much alcohol as he can get his hands on. His nephew brings him to a cabin that's about to be put up for sale, the owner allowing Monte to stay at the cabin for the summer. His nephew thinks it might bring on some inspiration, so he brings along Monte's typewriter, but Monte has other plans.
Unfortunately, those plans are interrupted by his neighbors. Finnegan O'Neill (Emma Fuhrmann) is the middle child of the O'Neill household. Her mother, Charlotte (Virginia Madsen) and father (unseen in this film) are getting divorced and all Finn wants to do is escape the drama. Though she has an active imagination, she doesn't seem to know it. In fact, discovering that Monte used to be a writer, she actually pays him to teach her how to imagine.
At first, Monte is annoyed by the distraction, but, after a while, he becomes intrigued by the O'Neill family, even becoming attracted to Charlotte. The family inspires him to write again. Creating a special story for the youngest O'Neill (Nicolette Pierini), Monte expresses his admiration for Charlotte and lets her know just how special he is to him.
Yes, The Magic of Belle Isle plays out like a Hallmark Hall of Fame special and, yes, the romance between Monte and Charlotte is on the edge of barely believable (there are no romantic sparks flying between Freeman and Madsen here), but I found myself smiling at the end of this movie and that's what counts.
This is a feel good movie filled with humor and messages about life - things like not giving up, even when things look their bleakest; the teenage realization that adults actually know the angst of being a teenager (yes, teenagers out there, we still remember even if you think we don't); the fact that, to quote Monte, "Most times real life doesn't measure-up to what's in our heads, but every now and then it comes pretty close..." and more. That last quote was one of my favorites from the film and here's another: "I always felt like a book is a friend that does what no friend can do; stay quiet when you wanna think."
For me, The Magic of Belle Isle is one of those pick-me-up movies that you watch when you are in need of a smile. Sure, it's kind of sappy and has a predictable ending, but it's also cute and quirky (love that relationship between Monte and the dog that lives in the cabin with him), making it a great feel good movie worth watching.