Owen Gleiberman
August 16, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Manny and Lo

Current Status
In Season
Scarlett Johansson, Aleksa Palladino, Mary Kay Place
Lisa Krueger

We gave it a C

Manny (Scarlett Johansson) and Lo (Aleksa Palladino) are sisters who’ve escaped their foster homes and now drift around in a beat-up Chevy station wagon, dodging cops, ripping off convenience stores, and sleeping in unoccupied suburban model houses that seem to mock their rootlessness. When Lo, who’s 16, finally figures out that she’s pregnant — seven months so — she and 11-year-old Manny kidnap an eccentric maternity-store clerk (Mary Kay Place) and lock her inside their latest haunt, a big, rustic vacation cabin. The first feature written and directed by Lisa Krueger starts out entertainingly, with Manny (wise beyond her years) and Lo (a sullen punk) displaying a spikiness that draws you into their no-exit wanderings. But as soon as they launch their big scheme, the movie lapses into contrived, glorified-sitcom banality. Place, in her starched white dress, is playing a primly overgrown Girl Scout, a kind of benign Nurse Ratched who, naturally, becomes the girls’ fearless mother-protector. For those who reveled in the gooey feminist pieties of Antonia’s Line, Manny & Lo could be the stripped-down American-indie version — it’s matriarchy made cozy. C

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