As I mentioned in my review for last year’s Miss Meadows, a vigilante justice head-scratcher starring Katie Holmes, the movie works a lot better as a surreally campy oddity than a straightforward moral tale about crime & the failings of the justice system. I said, “There is a moral grey area in Miss Meadows’ worldview. According to Miss Meadows herself, ‘There are bad people in the world and they shouldn’t be around the good people.’ She means that people are either wholly ‘good’ or wholly ‘bad’ with little to no further nuance in their worth as human beings. […] Judging Miss Meadows on its merits as a moral tale is a tricky proposition, one that doesn’t flatter its likeability. However, as a detached-from-reality vigilante story with a campy mean streak (and an admittedly low body count, in case that’s what you’re looking for), it’s quite pleasant.”
There’s enough bizarre tonal juxtapositions in both its images & narrative that Miss Meadows has the potential to gradually cultivate a cult following despite (or maybe even because of) its muddled moralizing. Who wouldn’t love a stark clash of aesthetics that could be described under the range of Pulp Fiction Mary Poppins, Cinderella Death Wish, Serial Mom: The Early Years, or Batman in Pretty Dresses? It’s best to approach Miss Meadows as goofy pulp in this way, as it will most certainly be a more satisfying experience than if you took its musings on vigilante justice & mental illness at face value.
To encourage this playful approach to enjoying Miss Meadows, I’d like to suggest a drinking game. It’s a real simple one that should be easy to get a grip on, much unlike the central moral to the film itself. Here’s your drinking prompt if you want to play along from home:
1) Drink every time someone says “Toodaloo”
This prompt is a perfect distillation of the film in a few ways. Not only does it reflect the central character’s antiquated, genteel personality (when she’s not murdering people she deems not worthy to live), but it also is effective for the purposes of a drinking game, as the word is repeated often within the film. “Toodaloo” is Miss Meadows’ calling card (one she learned from her controlling, not-all-there mother), a catchphrase that amplifies her comic book character personality to an absurd extent. Approach the film with armed with this drinking prompt and campy expectations and you might just enjoy yourself.
As always, play safe. Toodaloo!
In the opening scene of Miss Meadows, a primly dressed Katie Holmes (as the titular Miss Meadows) tap dances down a suburban sidewalk, whistling whimsically at the CGI squirrels, birds & deer that surround her as if she were a real-life Disney princess. This reverie is interrupted by all-too-familiar street harassment as a lecherous man attempts to lure her into his dirty pick-up truck with salacious commands. In response, she shoots him in the neck. Miss Meadows describes itself as a Pulp Fiction Mary Poppins, but it plays more like a Cinderella Death Wish, its central character acting as a no-nonsense vigilante that stands as a dividing line between decency & bloodthirsty, frothing-at-the-mouth criminals. It could also be described as Serial Mom: The Early Years and Batman in Pretty Dresses.
Much like with Death Wish & Batman there is a moral grey area in Miss Meadows’ worldview. According to Miss Meadows herself, “There are bad people in the world and they shouldn’t be around the good people.” She means that people are either wholly “good” or wholly “bad” with little to no further nuance in their worth as human beings. Miss Meadows, of course, believes herself to be one of the good ones. She tap dances, reads poetry, dresses immaculately, calls her mother regularly, dates a cop, sings in the choir, plays hopscotch, giggles during sex, knits, gardens, brings her neighbors tea & crumpets, and teaches a 1st grade class about the virtues of courage & kindness. She also, you know, murders people she doesn’t deem worthy to be alive. At one point she even admits with acidic honesty that she would rather criminals die than cost taxpayers in the penal system. That’s pretty damn cruel for someone who’s supposed to be a model citizen. Even Batman had his limits.
It’s difficult to tell exactly where Miss Meadows falls on its protagonist’s genteel brand of vigilante justice. It has the inauthentic feeling of a fairy tale or a moralizing allegory, with only children & a dog named “Frank” being honored with first names and most characters being addressed solely by handles like “Miss Meadows” & “The Sherriff”. The exact nature of the central moral, however, is more than a little muddled. A supposedly reformed criminal seems to question Miss Meadow’s good person/bad person worldview, but eventually she’s more or less proven to be right and his reformation unravels. Then again, Miss Meadows’ own mental health is quite poor and she reveals a little too much of herself in an exchange with a criminal where she shouts “I’m not crazy! You’re crazy and I’m nothing like you.” Judging Miss Meadows on its merits as a moral tale is a tricky proposition, one that doesn’t flatter its likeability. However, as a detached-from-reality vigilante story with a campy mean streak (and an admittedly low body count, in case that’s what you’re looking for), it’s quite pleasant.