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    Getting to Know You

    Off the depot end

    Heather Matarazzo of "Welcome to the Dollhouse" stars as a teenage girl who tries to find humanity at an upstate bus station as it evaporates in her own family, in "Getting to Know You."


    Judith (Heather Matarazzo, the ugly duckling from "Welcome to the Dollhouse") finds herself in an upstate New York bus station with her brother, waiting to scatter parentless to separate corners of the state. Mom is recovering in an asylum, and dad has made it clear he's washed his hands of the rest of the family. "Do you have a different interpretation for 'Stew in your own juice'?" brother Wesley (Zach Braff) jibes when Judith asks if he's really serious.

    Directed by: Lisanne Skyler.
    Written by: Lisanne and Tristine Skyler.
    Adapted from stories by: Joyce Carol Oates.
    Cast: Heather Matarazzo, Zach Braff, Michael Weston, Bebe Neuwirth, Mark Blum, Bo Hopkins, Tristine Skyler, Sonja Sohn, Christopher Noth, Kevin Black, Mary McCormack, Jacob Reynolds, Leo Burmester, Celia Weston, Craig Anthony Grant.
    As will happen in bus stations, Judith is approached by a creepy guy who won't leave her alone. Well, either creepy or fascinating — she can't decide right away. Jimmy (Michael Weston) seems to have nothing to do with his small-town teenage life but sit in the bus station and tell stories about the people he sees there. True stories? Made-up stories? Who knows. The time at which Judith joins story-boy in inventing whole tormented lives for the people in the station is the time when we know she's decided to trust him, trustworthy or not. Is it an unhealthy obsession?

    Judith rebukes Jimmy at first: "I don't listen to other people's conversations."

    Getting to Know You  
    "I do it all the time. Pathological," he says unapologetically.

    "Getting to Know You" is built from several Joyce Carol Oates stories, including that of Judith and Wesley. Their parents (Bebe Neuwirth and Mark Blum) are washed-up performers caught between the glamour of their former lives and the day-to-day reality of parenthood, which they are frankly no good at. In between other people's stories we get glimpses of what brought these two teenagers to this point where they are being sent off by themselves unready to face the world alone.

    There are three interesting things going on in "Getting to Know You." First, there's the simple storytelling level at which we see the Oates stories, grim glimpses into people's lives of unacknowledged desperation. Second, there's the overarching drama of the two teens waiting for the bus — and that of the local boy who, strangely, has nothing to do but sit around in the station ond has such a void in his own life that he lives vicariously by inventing dramas for other people.

    And third, there's the question about human nature implied by the title: How well do we know one another? In the bus station, we see the final disintegration of what has become a family of strangers. Matarazzo is particularly good as a teenager searching for some new connection to people, even strangers in a bus station, as she loses touch with the only family she's ever known.

    JUNE 28, 2000

    Reader comments on Getting to Know You:

  • Getting to know you   from Dis Guy, Jun 26, 2001

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