Corrina, Corrina is a 1994 feature film set in 1959 about a widower (Ray Liotta) who hires a housekeeper/nanny (Whoopi Goldberg) to care for his daughter (Tina Majorino). It was written and directed by Jessie Nelson. It was the last film Don Ameche made; he died after filming was completed. When his wife dies, Manny Singer (Ray Liotta) searches for a housekeeper/nanny to take care of his young daughter, Molly. After several unsuccessful interviews that turn up such prospects as a religious zealot, a Sophia Loren wannabe, and a closet alcoholic (Joan Cusack) who tries to seduce him, Corrina (Whoopi Goldberg) interviews for the position. Manny perceives her as overqualified because of her college degree and, initially, decides not to hire her. However, as Corrina is leaving, he sees the way she interacts with Molly. Since her mother's death, the child has not only refused to speak but doesn't even acknowledge people. Molly responds to Corrina and Manny hires the no-nonsense housekeeper. Very quickly a strong bond is formed between nanny and child and soon Molly regains her desire to speak. Corrina and Manny fall in love and, in 1950s America, face difficulties as an interracial
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Whoopi Goldberg may receive more attention for her flashy, brassy portrayals of women who turn the tables on men the "Sister Act" movies, her Oscar-winning "Ghost" but it is in her quieter roles, playing low-key, unassuming characters "The Color Purple," "The Long Walk Home" that she is most satisfying.
Such is the case with "Corrina, Corrina."
Goldberg can project a vulnerability and dignity without sacrificing self-confidence, and that is certainly the case with this character, Corrina Washington, a university-educated black woman in the late 1950s. Unable to a obtain work in her chosen field, she is reduced to scrubbing floors and baby-sitting to eke out a living.
"I really need this job," she tells recently widowed Manny Singer (Ray Liotta, looking bemused), a middle-class suburbanite who works as an advertising copywriter and whose young daughter Molly (the astonishing Tina Majorino) has not spoken a word since her mother's death.
After interviewing a variety of zany candidates and hiring one for a brief stay (goofy Joan Cusack in an amusing cameo) Manny gives Corrina the job when he sees her connect with his daughter.
The first half of the film has Corrina using pop psychology mixed with sincere caring to bring Molly out of her shell, and after a time Molly begins talking again. Not surprisingly, she sees Corrina as a surrogate mother and decides to play matchmaker to try and bring Corrina and her father together. She has no concept, of course, of the ramifications.
The second half of the film leads into a tentative interracial romance between Manny and Corrina and attempts to balance the problematic aspects that ensue as both parties find themselves subjected to disapproval and pressure from their families and friends.
All of the elements here don't quite come together as smoothly as one might like, leaving the film rather uneven. But the material is pleasantly handled and the actors give it a tremendous boost. Both Goldberg and Liotta offer introspective performances that prove to be quite engaging. And young Majorino (who also stars in the current "Andre") is simply wonderful, one of the most natural and charming child performers to come along in some time.
A sad footnote here is the cameo appearance by Don Ameche in his final film role as Liotta's father. He seems as ill as the character he plays and doesn't have much dialogue. Yet his smiling face, which seems to penetrate a sad mask, caused me to reflect on just how enjoyable he was as an actor especially in his later years.
"Corrina, Corrina" is rated PG for one profanity and some mild vulgarity.
September 16th, 1994 · Details