Reviewed by: Rosemarie Ute Hoffman
|Featuring:||AnnaSophia Robb, Jeff Daniels, Elle Fanning, Dave Matthews, Cicely Tyson|
|Producer:||Trevor Albert, Joan V. Singleton|
|Distributor:||20th Century Fox|
This film is based on the best-seller by Kate DiCamillo (2001 Newbery Honor winning novel).
“Discover what happens when you go looking for a miracle and a miracle comes looking for you.”
“Because of Winn Dixie” is a charming children’s story with a few surprising adult lessons. Ten-year old India Opal Buloni (pronounced ba-lo-nee) (AnnaSophia Robb), like her new found friend, Winn Dixie—named after a grocery store chain—share names that are unusual. However, their need to be loved was quite normal.
Opal and her father (Jeff Daniels), the preacher, have just moved to Naomi, Florida. He tends to a small flock out of a converted convenience store named Open Arms Baptist Church. While the preacher leads the congregation through the Lord’s Prayer, Opal prays for the need of a new friend and about how much she misses her momma.
The preacher leaves Opal a note on the fridge the next morning with a short grocery list of items to get from the local Winn Dixie. It is there where Opal finds a true friend—big, furry, and stinky—darting through the produce isle leaving a trail of fruit and vegetables behind. After Winn Dixie comes face to face with an unwilling partner, the store manager, Opal who has witnessed this mayhem with a grin and a giggle, claims the pet as her own. Nevertheless, proving ownership to the preacher would be challenging.
Opal runs home to the trailer park with her new friend by her side to announce the good news. There she finds her father at the kitchen table looking intently at old wedding photos of his estranged wife. She abandoned them both when Opal was three years old. It was her inability to cope with being a preacher’s wife—being placed under a microscope by the congregation. This led her to drink and eventually leave her family.
After a quick introduction to Opal’s four-legged friend, the preacher became opposed to the notion of taking him in, but was quickly persuaded to keep him temporarily, until of course, she found his “real” home. After becoming acquainted through a long bath there was an instant bond, and luckily no one ever came forward to claim the dog.
Just as the title of this flick suggests that because of Winn Dixie, Opal meets the most unpopular characters in this small southern town and discovers some insightful life lessons. Their first encounter is with Mr. Alfred the crotchety loner who runs the trailer park. He is adamant about the rules of keeping pets and insists on calling the dog pound.
Next, they meet up with Otis (Dave Matthews) who tends the local pet store. A meek, mild mannered, musical, and magic man who is an ex-convict, recently released from a three-year term. Otis’ punishment was for striking a police officer in the nose after he tried to take his guitar for playing it in public.
Winn Dixie confidently struts towards the library door with Opal in tow and barks. She enters to find Miss Franny (Eva Marie Saint), a librarian and the town spinster who lives life through books. Miss Franny shares a remarkable story about the inventor of the Litmus Lozenges who was motivated by the death of his family, and war. His mixture of sweetness—something the world has lost its appetite for—and a secret ingredient, sadness.
Gloria Dump (Cicely Tyson) is a nearly blind woman of seclusion who is nicknamed the witch. Gloria takes on a nurturing role, and enlightens Opal about how one can see with the heart more clearly then with their eyes. As Opal shares her life story with Gloria, Opal reflects on how she can feel her listening with all her heart, and how good it feels. Opal then finds out that Gloria’s past includes drinking. Gloria has a massive tree in her backyard strung with empty liquor bottles. It serves as a physical reminder of her dark past and as she states, “It keeps the ghosts away. The ghosts of all the things I did bad.”
Winn Dixie though lovable has a disorder. Opal’s father explains he has a pathological fear of thunderstorms. His abnormal and altered state causes him to run out of control. So, Opal and her dad watch and wait on the couch until the storm passes over the trailer park.
Opal is desperate to identify with her mother. She persists in coaxing her father because she is now ten years old, to reveal just ten things about her momma. This starts to weaken his ability to dodge the heart wrenching account. After hearing all but the last one, Opal hangs on to his every word and writes each one down so that she can never forget any of them. The tenth revealed at the end of the movie proves to be her mother’s faulty one—her drinking.
Through her encounters with the locals, the befriending of Winn Dixie, and learning the truth about her mother’s disappearance, Opal finally realizes that the empty space in her heart is now filled.
Our society at times tends to discard those whom they think are less significant, and it is very often some of these people who can best fulfill our destiny. Unfortunately, broken hearts and broken dreams are part of life. Therefore, it is the joy and the sadness that must be separated, or the latter will hinder us in bonding with those who are meant to fill our empty spaces—propelling us forward to our destiny.
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Violence: None / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None
See our interviews with the cast of “Because of Winn-Dixie”—GO
Ten Things I Liked About “Because of Winn-Dixie” (the movie)
Paul Taylor, Editor