By JANE WILSON, Special Contributor | Published February 19, 2004
“The Adventures of Ociee Nash,” the story of a young girl growing up in the South, is an enjoyable film with a message that is suitable for the entire family.
Set in 1898 and based upon the novel “A Flower Blooms on Charlotte Street” by Georgia writer Milam McGraw Propst, “The Adventures of Ociee Nash” tells the story of 9-year-old Ociee who leaves her father’s farm in rural Mississippi to live with her Aunt Mamie in Asheville, N.C. Her widowed father believes life on the farm is too rough and tumble for his little girl, and he hopes that her aunt can teach her to be a proper young lady. Ociee, a forthright tomboy, must adapt to a refined city environment and life with her strict Aunt Mamie. Along the way she has multiple “adventures” and makes many friends, including some of the most famous people of her era.
The characters and the situations in the film are genuinely charming, if a touch too simplistic. Ociee is like a female Tom Sawyer placed in a “Waltons”-type setting. Skyler Day plays Ociee with an endearing combination of willfulness and charm. As Papa George Nash, Keith Carradine comes off a trifle slow, but Mare Winningham, as Aunt Mamie, is a pleasure to watch, especially after the aunt relaxes a bit and gets used to having the young girl in her home. Atlanta favorite Tom Key is a solid presence as Mamie’s suitor, Mr. Lynch.
One of the best aspects of the film is its insistence on the capability of its female characters. It presents an entertaining example of “girl power” at the turn of the century. Ociee can be brave and heroic without being overly precious. She brings out the best in other people and states from the beginning that she wants to be able to take care of herself. Her aunt is a businesswoman, and the men in the film express admiration for her intelligence and independence. This film would definitely be a fine choice for young girls looking for female role models.
Produced by Atlanta-based CineVita Productions by the sister team of Amy McGary, producer, and Kristen McGary, director, the film has several Georgia connections. It was beautifully filmed in Orchard Hill, Ga., and Atlanta’s Inman Park, and at the Tennessee Valley Railroad in Chattanooga. The cinematography is lovely, and the settings appear detailed and authentic. In addition, the cast is filled with local actors, including Day, Key, and Ty Pennington, best-known for his carpentry work on television’s “Trading Spaces,” appearing here as an excitable Wilbur Wright.
If you are looking for a movie with heart, then look no further than “The Adventures of Ociee Nash.” The title character approaches life with great good will and courage and thereby creates a positive message of self-empowerment.