Curly Sue: John Hughes Tale of Con Artists, Starring James Belushi

Viewers in search of an illuminating insight about the homeless should look anywhere but Hollywood. No one expects movies to be accurate representations of relevant issues. Yet when it comes to the depiction of homelessness, Hollywood has taken a soft, benign, almost mythical look at one of America’s most disturbing problems.

It’s not just that Hollywood has steered clear of this issue, but that the few movies made have presented a stereotypically sanitized portrait, turning the homeless into noble saints and misunderstood geniuses.

John Hughes, king of 1980s youth movies, has directed Curly Sue, the story of con artists Curly Sue (Alison Porter), a smart girl, and Bill, her decent guardian (James Belushi), who wanders into the path of a high-powered divorce lawyer, Grey (Kelly Lynch), when she hits Bill with her Mercedes.

A heart-tugging sentimentality is laid over the narrative, though Curly Sue, like the girl played by Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon, is of the assured, precocious, and manipulative kind. When Curly Sue tells Grey, “You got an awful lot of pillows for just one person,” the lawyer’s maternal stirrings are awakened.

Later, an immaculately groomed Bill proves his talent by playing “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You” on the piano in Grey’s lush apartment. Only in a Hollywood movie, would a lawyer take derelicts home, clean them up, buy them new clothes and discover they are just like she (Grey) is–only more virtuous and in direct touch with their emotions.