Perhaps the aspect of Crooklyn that made me love the movie so much was the family’s vibes, and how much I related to it. During Troy and her brother’s scenes of arguing and fighting, I laughed and thought back to the numerous fights that myself and my siblings have had. The love that he portrays on screen is comforting and, thankfully, familiar.
I particularly related to Troy’s relationship with her mother. There is a special bond between the two. Though Carolyn is a strict disciplinarian who is responsible primarily for keeping the house afloat, she is more sensitive with Troy, her only daughter. This is portrayed in the scene when Carolyn and the family drop Troy off at her aunt’s house, and in the proceeding letters the two exchange. In the letters, Carolyn has a soft tone. She is understanding and loving and shares family updates. The way Carolyn recounts the family’s doings is almost the opposite of the screaming Carolyn that we see trying got get her kids to go to bed at normal hour or get them to turn off the TV. When Carolyn whispers in Troy’s ear, it gives the viewers the feeling that though we are getting a glimpse into this family, there are still some things that are for family only. Though there are scenes where she disciplines Troy, like when she makes Troy to a boy for calling him and his mother mean names, she and Troy clearly share a bond that is facilitated by their femaleness. In many ways, as seen after Carolyn’s death, their relationship is meant to be teach Troy, so that she may assume Carolyn’s position.
As Professor Drabinski mentioned in class on Thursday, Crooklyn seems to be one of the favorite films we’ve watched so far. Despite the tears it caused by the end, this sentiment holds true for me, too. As I watched, I tried to figure out what was causing this response. The interactions between the kids were definitely a large component. The soundtrack was also an enjoyable element. But, our discussion on Tuesday and Thursday paired with some reflection revealed the true deciding factor: Carolyn.
Carolyn quickly became my favorite character in the film. Troy is definitely one my favorites too, but I felt such deep sympathy for Carolyn accompanied by immense respect for her strength. One moment in particular inspired an awareness of the difficulty of her situation and respect for how she handles and carries herself. There’s a scene at the dinner table where Woody offers the kids cake, but Carolyn has to provide the caveat: They can only have it after they finish their vegetables. This small moment serves as a representation of their distinct relationships with the kids throughout the film. Carolyn is always the disciplinarian, reminding the kids of their responsibilities while Woody provides the source of fun and freedom that the kids enjoy. Carolyn never wavers, though, as she always keeps in mind and only wants what’s ultimately best for the children.
While Carolyn is consistently the enforcer of the house, it’s important to note her constant affection for the kids. She’s sure to discipline them, but is also quick to defend them from outside attacks (as seen in the interaction with the messy neighbor). Even when the kids are at fault, she’ll battle the outsiders that are attempting to disturb her family. Carolyn moves effortlessly through her many roles and it’s sad that her few moments of validation come in moments of deep sadness, such as after the argument with Woody and tragically with her death. The legacy she leaves through Troy serves as a testament to her largely unsung impact and her truly remarkable achievements.
As this NYT review of Crooklyn from its release in 1994 notes, Carolyn’s character is so effective because it “feels real”. What are your thoughts?