A Teacher on a Mission to Erase Evil

‘Miss Meadows’: Prim, Proper and Extremely Dangerous

11/13/2014   The New York Times  

Don’t be fooled by the gloves, anklets and Mary Janes. Katie Holmes, in “Miss Meadows,” never leaves home without a ballistic accessory.

Between “Serial Mom” and “God Bless America,” not to mention the moonlighting criminals who populate binge television, vigilantes in sheep’s clothing are familiar by now. “Miss Meadows” gives the old perverse routine a whirl with a weirdly soul-baring Katie Holmes as a prim-and-proper gunlady, but despite an eccentric streak (which turns erratic), the script doesn’t allow much room for the premise to take flight.

Miss Meadows — her preferred manner of address — is a glove-wearing substitute teacher who won’t hesitate to quick-draw her pistol when confronted with maniacs in her suburban world. As her mother affirms in their telephone chats, God needs a little help sweeping away the evildoers. But Miss Meadows is in danger of being exposed when the wholesome local sheriff (a winning James Badge Dale) courts her.

Ms. Holmes brings not only suitable dimples and nerve to her role but also an abject panic and sadness (and maybe madness) quivering beneath the grammatically correct surfaces of Miss Meadows. The character also emerges as more than an officious schoolmarm, for she picks and chooses from the platter of old-fashioned values: driving a respectable old roadster and tending a perfect garden but singing in a church choir for fun, not faith.

The dark comedy (punctuated by the catchphrase “Toodle-oo”) doesn’t always come off, and the filmmaking is more off-kilter than necessary, with capricious camerawork and pacing. The odd little spikes in approach make for something better than disposable indie satire, but it all still feels underdeveloped.

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