Felicity: An American Girl Adventure, on The WB
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This is the second film in the American Girl series. It originally aired on November 29, 2005, and was released on DVD on December 6. I didn't see it until 2020, and by coincidence, I happened to watch it on November 29 of that year. So... this movie. What to say? I liked the characters, for the most part, especially the title character, Felicity Merriman (Shailene Woodley). It's got a very feel-good story, but alas, I didn't feel completely good about it. It's set in 1775, and a major theme of the movie is the ideological conflict between Loyalists to the King of England, and American Patriots. The problem for me is, the movie treats the conflict as if it were some minor disagreement that people could just get past and still be perfectly cordial to one another. And I understand a lot of people wanting to do exactly that, with political differences. In fact, I found it particularly poignant (and unrealistic), watching it in 2020, with the extreme polarization in this country between liberals and conservatives. I suppose sometimes some people can just ignore their differences, not talk about them, for the sake of family getting along (especially during the holidays). But I'm not convinced they should. And yes, I'm guilty of doing exactly that, myself. But I feel very weird about it, to say the least. Another major point in the movie is that there could be injustices on both sides. In fact, at one point a Patriot helps get a Loyalist out of prison, considering it an injustice that he had been arrested simply for being a Loyalist. And I kind of agree that that was an injustice, especially considering the war hadn't yet begun. But I'm still solidly on the side of the Patriots, and consider the Loyalists to be guilty of... well, this movie doesn't really show them committing any injustices, as I'm sure they did in real life, but at the very least they support the English government, which definitely was guilty of injustices. But speaking of injustice, I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention that the movie has several Black characters, who are mostly just seen in the background, going about their work. They had very few lines. And this being 1775, I find it hard to imagine that they were anything other than slaves, a fact which is never brought up by the movie at all. But slave ownership is an injustice that both Loyalists and Patriots were guilty of. So anyway... all of this gives me very mixed feelings about the movie, and I feel guilty about liking it at all.
But I haven't yet said anything about the actual plot. It begins on Felicity's 10th birthday, and we quickly learn she's an independent thinker. Her father, Edward (John Schneider) is a shopkeeper and a Patriot. Her mother, Martha (Marcia Gay Harden) never mentions her own affiliation, but I have to assume she felt torn between her husband and her father, who is a Loyalist. But the most passionate Patriot in the movie is Edward's apprentice, 15-year-old Ben Davidson, who longs to become a soldier and fight against the tyranny of the king. (The only injustice that's mentioned specifically is the tax on tea, and Edward decides to stop selling tea in his shop because of it.) Meanwhile, a new family, the Coles, have just moved from England to Felicity's home town of Williamsburg, Virginia. The most important one is a girl Felicity's age named Elizabeth, who quickly becomes best friends with Felicity. However, Elizabeth's family are Loyalists, so that creates some tension. Another major plot point is that Felicity comes to love a horse, whom she calls Penny, who belongs to an abusive owner named Jiggy Nye. And I have mixed feelings about Felicity trespassing on his property every night to befriend and tame Penny. But a happy ending does ultimately come of that.
And, um... I'm not sure what else to say. Other stuff happens, including etiquette classes that Felicity is forced to attend, along with Elizabeth and her older sister, Annabelle. I should perhaps mention that the movie takes place between spring and winter of 1775, and the summer is spent at Felicity's grandfather's plantation in Yorktown. And eventually there's a Christmas Eve ball thrown by Lord and Lady Templeton (who are obviously Loyalists, so I find it strange that Felicity gets invited). And, later there's a happy Christmas dinner at the Merrimans' house, including redemption for a certain character. Yes, as I said, it's all a very feel good story... if you can just manage to ignore the facts that the injustice of slavery is completely ignored, and the injustices of the king and his Loyalists are treated like something that can be easily overlooked in the name of civility, or whatever. Sigh. But I still did like Felicity. And I liked that her mother told her, at one point, that whether she should choose to be a Loyalist or a Patriot is a decision she'd have to make for herself. And dammit, I did like Felicity and Elizabeth remaining friends. I just worry that when they get older, it might not be as simple as it is at age 10, when there isn't an actual war going on.