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Netflix fix: 'Sassy Pants' a refreshing coming-of-age tale about mothers, daughters

By by luis rendon/lrendon@vicad.com
Jan. 30, 2013 at 2:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 29, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.

Haley Joel Osment, left, and Ashley Rickards star in "Sassy Pants."

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Stories about family are always great because the relationships are built in - there's no need for convincing why a character is doing something. So when June, a neurotic and overbearing mother, yells to our protagonist, Bethany, that she better get used to life's disappointments, we understand it's not because she is trying to hurt her daughter but because June's life perhaps has not gone the way she had hoped it would.

Though, technically, a coming-of-age tale, "Sassy Pants" (not rated but probably R, 1 hour, 27 minutes) is more about the relationship between two sets of mothers and daughters.

Ashley Rickards, of MTV's "Awkward" fame, stars as Bethany, the focus of our story. The "valedictorian" of her homeschool where her brother is the only other student and Mama June is the only teacher, Bethany is a sheltered girl stuck in a limbo of life after she graduates. June is loath to let Bethany go to community college in town, instead signing her up for online courses and shaming her for thinking she could do any different.

Aching for some freedom, Bethany runs away to live with her deadbeat father, Dale, and his boyfriend, Chip, played, in an interesting turn, by Haley Joel Osment.

Rickards plays her role as the quiet girl with a dream really well. It's interesting to watch her as Bethany, struggling to figure out how to be an 18-year-old woman with only the knowledge she has from reading fashion magazines.

Bethany's time with her father and Chip serves as a learning period for her, but rather than an escape, she realizes it's just a dead end because even though her father loves her, she isn't and has never been the most important thing to him.

The fantasy of her father saving the day is gone.

The real meat of the story lives within the scenes with Bethany and her mother, fighting, pushing and pulling to find the balance between shelter and freedom. When June's mother, Grandma Pruitt, who lives with the clan after a cigarette/oxygen tank snafu, enters the picture we get the entire mythology of this group of women and the decisions they've made growing up and raising their respective daughters.

The movie gets a little sappy, less sassy by the end, but it feels right - like even the movie is exhausted from tearing these women down.

Though a little slow, "Sassy Pants" is a satisfying tale of mothers and daughters and the relentless love that these relationships bear.

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