Movie Review

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Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain

reviewed by Dr. Barbara Mack Ph.D.

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Self-Help Parent Meter (Scale based on PG-13 films)
0 = Little or none      5 = Great amount or highly

Sex: (1)
Profanity: (0)
Violence: (3)
Fright: (3)

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"Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain" (PG) is an adventure story, especially appealing to adolescent girls, which takes place in the magnificent Oregon mountains. This film is not for all children, for it deals with domestic abuse and should have been rated PG-13.

Beth Easton (Christina Ricci) and her widowed mother Kate (Polly Draper) have recently moved to a rural Oregon town from Los Angeles. Beth anticipates a boring life in this town without a shopping mall. Then she meets Jody Salerno (Anna Chlumsky), a girl shunned by the other girls because "she steals" and "her mother is a boozer." The two young teen-agers find that they have much in common, for they both love poetry about Winnie the Pooh and both of their fathers are dead.

Jody tells Beth about Molly Morgan, who in the 1930s claimed to have found gold in Bear Mountain. Jody believes the legend and asks Beth to join her in the search for riches. As the girls set off on their expedition, Jody brings a backpack filled with stolen candy and the girls proceed up a river on a boat propelled by a motor bought with money stolen from her mother. Jody is not only searching for gold, she is also escaping from her mother's physically abusive boyfriend Ray (David Keith). Beth helps her, and together the girls face danger from the mountain and from Ray. They loyally support and bravely protect each other. In the end, Jody pays her penance for stealing, the adults finally understand the truth about Ray and justice triumphs.

This is a tale of friendship and adventure. Beth finds and brings out the good in Jody, while Jody gives Beth a lesson in courage. Jody confesses her thefts and then must do community service, while Ray is put in prison. The message to the audience is that friendship, truth and justice is worth working towards and attaining.

The film's theme of domestic violence cannot be ignored. Ray is cruel and physically abusive to Jody and her mother. As sometimes happens in real life, the abuser appears to the community as a "nice guy." When Jody goes into hiding, Beth tells her that "you didn't do anything wrong--you shouldn't have to hide." The message that they are not to blame is one that victims of domestic abuse need to hear. Perhaps the recent media attention to this subject and other educational attempts will help victims seek help.

Adolescents in the audience can probably handle the disturbing issue of domestic abuse which is presented in "Gold Diggers," although it would be helpful for parents to discuss that topic with them. Besides the concept of domestic abuse, there are scenes which might be upsetting to younger children. Jody's mother is seen lying on the floor of her home, bloody and unconscious. She is next seen hooked up to oxygen in the hospital. Ray chases the girls in a dark and scary cave. Beth is trapped by boulders whichhave fallen on her, while the tide rises threatening to drown her. A huge bear appears from the woods, scaring one of the girls.

"Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain" is fine for adolescents, but parents might want to protect their sensitive younger children from some disturbing images in the film.

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