(1991)4Brian J. DillardCharming but bawdy, old-fashioned but politically progressive, Rambling Rose is a study in contradictions. A nostalgia piece in which sexual awakening and boyhood love intertwine in the unlikeliest of ways, the film hinges on sweet, sensitive performances from Lukas Haas and Laura Dern. Him the curious youngster, her the hothouse naif, their characters together represent both the innocence of our basest urges and the double standard applied to the curiosities of the two sexes. It's unusual for a film to have two separate but complementary emotional centers; the marriage between Mother and Daddy Hillyer, however, carries as much resonance as the friendship between Buddy and Rose. As the patriarch, Robert Duvall injects Big Daddy stereotypes with gentlemanly class and a genuine moral backbone, while Diane Ladd brings both a decorous exterior and a spine of steel to the role of his big-hearted wife. Despite a somewhat strained framing device featuring John Heard as the grown-up Buddy, Rambling Rose showcases a more mature, character-based style of comedy from Martha Coolidge, previously known as a director of cult-favorite teen comedies. Soft-focus, suffused with melancholy and beautifully shot, the film should have earned as loyal a popular audience as it did a critical following.