I caught Beautiful Girls (1996) on Hulu recently. For a movie that explores different versions of masculine ambivalence on the eve of a high school reunion (a reunion in winter? huh?), it comes as no surprise that it’s hard to feel anything but ambivalence toward the movie itself. I had seen it once before, years ago, and it was memorable only in my memory for featuring a young Natalie Portman (albeit in a slightly creepy subplot). It’s the kind of movie that substitutes songs for character development.
So about a half hour into the film, hapless girlfriend Sharon (Mira Sorvino) commiserates with her girlfriends about her cheating boyfriend Tommy (Matt Dillon).
Her friend Gina (Rosie O’Donnell) cheers her up by painting this scenario:
You’re going to have to break up with him, and you’re going to have to break up with him now. Now getting over him, that’s going to be the hard part. I know. Believe me, I know. It’s true. At first, after the breakup, you’ll have these visions. Of you alone, 57, 58, walking around wearing a nightgown, your hair in a bun. Maybe you’re a librarian, heating up a can of soup for one and worrying about the cobwebs that are growing in your womb.
Again, the specter of the Spinster Librarian nightmare. Gee, thanks.
At this point, I thought, ok, it’s going to be a Class V film, one that mentions a librarian but doesn’t include an actual librarian. But I was wrong.
An hour and ten minutes in, right after another inspiring soliloquy, this one by actor Michael Rappaport about the allure of supermodels (“A beautiful girl can make you dizzy, like you’ve been drinking Jack and Coke all morning”) we cut to a scene in the public library, where Tommy is trying to end his affair with Darian (Lauren Hutton). Is it merely coincidence that a librarian — this time an actual one — provides the backdrop for yet another breakup scene? Methinks perhaps not.
The older female librarian (uncredited) is standing up behind the circulation desk, checking out books to a couple of young boys. Her grey bobbed hair and bangs match her grey blazer, and her glasses sit low on her nose. No lanyard or bun in sight, thank goodness. She sits down as the camera pans to the back of the library toward Tommy and Darian. The bit of the desk visible reveals the standard movie props for libraries: stacks of books, a globe, a carousel of book stamps, a small card file, a bookstand, and in a nod to modern technology, a computer and scanner. Your average Information Provider, elevating the film into the Class IV category.
This scene was filmed at Franklin Library, a branch library of the Minneapolis Public Library system. This site provides a very thorough exploration of the filming location, plus more recent photos of this beautiful Carnegie library.