Miss Firecracker

Tim Robbins, Holly Hunter

Directed by Thomas Schlamme
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 0
Community: star rating
5 0 0
January 19, 1990

I mean this as a compliment: Beth Henley's characters belong to the stage; they breathe best where they can stretch out in their own crackbrained Southern Gothic theatricality. Movies tend to constrict Henley's oddballs. Remember the arid, all-star (Diane Keaton, Sissy Spacek, Jessica Lange) 1986 screen version of Henley's Pulitzer-winning Crimes of the Heart?

The Mississippi-bred Henley wrote Miss Firecracker right after Crimes. The former is much the lesser play and much the better movie. Go figure. It helps that director Thomas Schlamme avoids the stultifying hat-in-hand approach of most filmed theater productions. The movie boasts its own scratching vitality and a cast that makes rousing good company.

Holly Hunter, the hellcat from Broadcast News, is sensational as Carnelle Scott, a catfish-factory worker from Yazoo City, Mississippi, whose rep as the town slut can't stop her dream to win the local Miss Firecracker Beauty Pageant.

"I like a woman who can take it on the chin," says her carny lover, Mac Sam (Scott Glenn), and Carnelle sure has. Orphaned at eight, she was raised with her two spoiled first cousins. The well-married Elaine — a beguilingly bitchy Mary Steenburgen — is a former Miss Firecracker who'd rather not see her scraggly cousin succeed. Cousin Delmount, played with tickling humor by Tim Robbins, has just been sprung from an asylum, and he's eager to sell the decrepit family manse Carnelle still calls home. Delmount treats the local belles like dogs but succumbs to a salt-of-the-earth black seamstress named Popeye (the glorious Alfre Woodard), who claims, "He makes my heart hot."

Too much chin-up indomitability can choke the life out of a movie. You want to hide your head when Carnelle starts spouting about her search for "eternal grace." But Henley's antic humor carries the day for her characters, lively loons who laugh to keep from toppling into the abyss. Miss Firecracker is a spirited lark that happily survives most missteps; it's shot through with enchantment.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories


    The Pack | 2006

    Berkeley, California rappers the Pack made their footwear choice clear in 2006 with the song "Vans." The track caught the attention of Too $hort, who signed them to his imprint. MTV refused to play the video for the song, though, claiming it was essentially a commercial for the product. Rapper Lil' B disagreed. "I didn’t know nobody [at] Vans," he said. "I was just a rapper who wore Vans." Even without MTV's support, Lil' B recognized the impact of the track. "God blessed me with such a revolutionary song… People around my age know who really started a lot of the dressing people are into now."

    More Song Stories entries »