February 21, 2014 at 10:33 am

Tom Long

Review: Evan Rachel Wood's charm keeps 'Barefoot' bearable

Mental patient Evan Rachel Wood charms onlookers in the romcom 'Barefoot.' (Bart Singer / Barefoot Pictures)

Despite its utter silliness, “Barefoot” manages to be somewhat charming, thanks mostly to star Evan Rachel Wood.

Wood plays Daisy, a young woman taken to a mental hospital after her smothering mother passes away. Kept from the outside world while growing up, Daisy knows little about social interaction and finds herself puzzled by commonplace things.

At the hospital she meets a janitor named Jay (Scott Speedman), who is the black sheep son of a wealthy New Orleans family. Drowning in gambling debt, Jay is planning on flying home from LA for his brother’s wedding, hoping to hit up his father (Treat Williams) for some money.

When Daisy follows Jay out of the hospital, she becomes his unwanted responsibility. And then she becomes the pretend girlfriend he takes home for the wedding.

And so you have a fish-out-of-water romantic comedy. Jay must deal with Daisy’s first airplane flight, her first formal dinner, her introduction to his family, etc. In classic romcom style, Daisy is endearingly inappropriate, and of course when someone puts an evening gown on her, she’s stunning.

Director Andrew Fleming (“Dick,” “Nancy Drew”) plays all this fairly broadly, and sometimes it’s simply too much. But when the screenplay by Stephen Zotnowski takes a road trip turn, the film picks up momentum: Daisy’s full back story is revealed even as assorted pranks and prickly situations flow by.

It’s all thoroughly, intentionally lightweight, and the film’s final 10 minutes is a rush of highly unlikely smiley face resolutions. Still, Wood somehow makes it work as well as it can. You never fully believe in Daisy, but you do care about her. And who could begrudge her a happy ending?

'Barefoot'

GRADE: B-

Rated PG-13 for some sexual content including references, partial nudity, brief strong language and a scene of violence

Running time: 90 minutes

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