One of the oddest films in the history of motion pictures got a new DVD release last week, although they must have just run out of the old supply, because this new DVD doesn't contain so much as a trailer in the way of extras. The film I'm talking about is Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael, a low-budget dramedy that Winona Ryder unwisely embarked on right around the same time that she was making Edward Scissorhands and Heathers. The premise of the film -- a fifteen year-old girl in a small town comes to believe that a famous woman who hails from the same town, but left it abruptly fifteen years ago, is her long-lost mother -- isn't what makes it so odd. You could make anything out of that premise. No, the insanity of Roxy is in the details. The film would have us believe, for example, that the title character has made such a craterous impact on humanity in those fifteen years since she left that guided tours are now given of her old house, like as if Abe Lincoln lived there.
And that's just the beginning. The people around town reference Roxy in any conversation, for any purpose, like she's the God of their tribe. They get into fights over 'what Roxy would do.' They amuse themselves with Roxy trivia and busy themselves with preparations for a humongous 'welcome home' ceremony, which Stephen Tobolowsky will emcee and at which Roxy shall deign to actually walk amongst the mortals she left behind. So what's so astounding about Roxy that inspires such mania? She must be a stratospheric movie star, the Marilyn Monroe of her day, right? The first female president? A doctor who cured cancer? Well, no. She's some gal who some singer wrote one song about. And, according to the movie, she somehow got crazy rich off the royalty payments from this song she didn't write -- that's a new one -- and now she lives in a big mansion. We see Roxy from behind at the beginning of the movie -- we don't deserve to see her face -- diving into her mansion's big swimming pool, like something out of a perfume commercial.
Ryder's character, Dinky Bossetti, is a dysfunctional brat who spends her days on the outskirts of the town, killing time with a menagerie of animals -- goats, dogs, pigs -- that she talks to like people. The movie plays fair by acknowledging that she's the town weirdo, but it plays unfair by trying to convince us that Dinky's behavior is a turn-on to the school hunk, played by Thomas Wilson Brown, who was the young male lead in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and then this, and then nothing. Dinky and this guy embark on a whimsical courtship while all the 'Welcome Home' activities start to make her wonder about her past. We also continually cut to Jeff Daniels, who is the guy Roxy was involved with fifteen years ago and left. There's a hilarious scene where his new wife, who knows she could never measure up to Roxy -- who could? -- finally leaves him and gets him to admit that he's still in love with Roxy after all these years. He collapses on the ground in agony and admits it. Of course he is!
I'm tempted to spoil the ending, because it's so funny, but I won't -- I'll just say that the movie deserves credit for keeping the Roxy character consistent from beginning to end. Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael is one of those movies that comes along once in a while -- 1994's North is another good example -- that exists completely in its own universe, and we can only watch from the outside and study it like anthropologists. If I had more time, I'd give you a longer deconstruction of the film, and get into more of my favorite scenes, like the one where two couples debate what they like best about Roxy over dinner and a woman says "Roxy was the first girl I ever met who had actual sex before she was ten." Or the scene where the town has an airplane fly around dragging a banner ad, reminding people about the Roxy Ball. Or the scene where fifteen year-old Dinky ends up topless in a room with her adult female guidance counselor, and they compliment each others' breasts.