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Film / Curly Sue

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Curly Sue is a 1991 comedy film written and directed by John Hughes; his final film as a director before he withdrew from the public and his death in 2009.

Bill (James Belushi) and Curly Sue (Alisan Porter) are a father-and-daughter team of con artists, who are taken in by lawyer Grey Ellison (Kelly Lynch) after she accidentally hits Bill with her car.

This film provides examples of:

  • Award-Bait Song: "You Never Know" by Ringo Starr.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: When Grey asks Sue why she calls her father Bill, Sue initially explains: "Well...If I'm in a crowded place and I yell...'Dad!' 50 guys would turn around. If I yell 'Bill!' maybe two will turn around. It's a timesaver, really." It's later revealed that Bill is not actually Sue's father.
  • Character Title
  • Cute Bruiser: Curly Sue may be a small child but is capable of defending herself as shown when she hurt two grown men through the movie.
  • Department of Child Disservices: The social worker who apprehends Sue gives the impression of being cold and methodical, bluntly telling Grey that it's "irrelevant" that she loves Sue, as opposed to the destitute but fatherly Bill; the home she is placed in appears to be a similarly cold, emotionless place and they also cut Sue's hair there, which deeply upsets her.
  • Disappeared Dad: Sue's biological father is never seen nor mentioned.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After dumping her selfish boyfriend, Grey bails Bill out of jail and manages to get custody of Sue. Bill recovers Sue's mother's ring and decides to stay with Sue even after she is finally given a proper home. Grey and Bill start a relationship and Sue is finally able to go to school and have a normal, happy childhood.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Bill scams people for a living but disapproves of stealing money and forbids Sue from doing so.
  • Family Versus Career: A question facing Grey.
  • Happily Adopted: Grey manages to get custody of Sue and her and Bill officially become Sue's adoptive parents.
  • Hate Sink: Walker McCormick is an outright snobby businessman with zero redeeming qualities. He jealously looks down upon the homeless Bill Dancer and Bill's surrogate daughter Sue for being cared for by his fiancé Grey Ellison and ends up getting Bill arrested and Sue sent into welfare to try to get rid of them. Both the loathing and remorseless traits Walker exudes only seals how detestable he is and makes Bill and Sue all the more likable.
  • Hereditary Hairstyle: Sue's mother had thick curly hair just like her daughter.
  • I Choose to Stay: According to Sue, Bill's plan was to find her a foster family and leave and the way Bill stared at a passing train could be interpreted as him considering this as well but Bill, having grown to love Sue as his own child, decides to stay with her.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: All in fairness Walker is right in that it is dangerous for Grey to invite homeless people she doesn't even know into her home.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: A restaurant host has a chef literally throw Bill out of the restaurant early in the movie due to his unkept appearance. Later, Bill, now clean and well dressed returns with Grey and Sue to the restaurant, where the host apologizes to him and Bill gets a chance to get back at him by punching him in the face twice.
  • Like a Son to Me: Bill loves Sue as if she were his own biological daughter.
  • Little Miss Badass: Curly Sue is very tough and brave despite all the hardships she and Bill went through such losing her mother, home and even her late mother's ring. She only loses her composture when she is taken to a foster home and when she believes Bill is going to leave her with Grey.
  • Little Miss Con Artist: Curly Sue.
  • Mama Bear: Immediately after Grey takes in Bill and Sue she takes it upon herself to take care of Sue, making sure she is fed, clean and clothed as well as having her to do chores instead of doing nothing but watch TV all day. Grey at one point tells Bill to leave Sue with her to make sure she is well taken care of (he doesn't).
  • Missing Mom: Sue's mother is mentioned to be "dead and buried in Florida", which apparently happened when Sue was still a baby or a toddler.
  • Odd Name Out: Sue told Grey that she wanted to have seven kids and would name them Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Bill after her surrogate father.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: The ring which belonged to Sue's mother serves as an interesting variant of this trope. Sue and Bill are homeless, and the ring is stolen by another homeless man early in the film. Later, when Bill is missing, she is unconcerned, asking whether he left a note or a ring; as he left neither, she knows he'll be back, since he won't leave her without first recovering her mother's ring. Near the end of the movie, he does leave both the ring and a note and she's heartbroken...until she learns that the note says he is in the next room.
  • Papa Wolf: Bill will go to great lengths to protect Sue from anyone who does her wrong in any way or tries to take her away from him.
  • Parental Substitute: Bill is this for Sue and so is Grey at the end of the film when she adopts Sue.
  • Proper Tights with a Skirt: Sue is forced to wear those as well as a dress shirt and a blazer when Grey takes her and Bill to a nice restaurant and wears them again for her first day of school, albeit combined with more tomboyish clothes that make Sue more comfortable.
  • Running Gag: Bill being struck on the head.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Subverted. Both Sue and Bill look nice when dressed nicely but Sue appears out of character and uncomfortable in the cute clothes Grey buys her. Bill also feels out of place in his new suit. They get better by the end of the movie when they both wear better clothes that suit their personalities better like the jean jacket and simple white shirt Sue wears for school along with the skirt, slacks and nice shoes (and her mother's ring, of course).
  • Spiritual Successor: To Paper Moon.
  • Staged Pedestrian Accident: Bill tries to pull this on Grey, with Sue playing the concerned bystander ("You've killed my daddy!"). Then Grey accidentally hits him for real ("Now you've really killed him!").
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Sue claims that she hates anything feminine but owns several pink necklaces and bracelets and always wears a woman's ring. After Grey takes her in Sue wears more feminine clothes.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Sue wasn't exactly mean but she had poor manners and becomes more polite after Grey takes her in.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Sue always wears a tin ring that belonged to her late mother until it gets stolen and pawned by one of their roommates at a shelter. Fortunately, Bill manages to get it back and Sue wears it on her first day of school. Among the many trinkets Sue has in her traveling bag there is an old candy tin box with a vintage paper doll Valentine's Day card, dried flowers and a tattered picture of a woman presumed to be Sue's mother inside.
  • Traumatic Haircut: At some point while in the custody of the child welfare authorities, Sue's trademark very long, curly hair is cut to about shoulder-length, which seems to also make it look poofier. Upon being reunited with Grey, she breaks down crying. (She's sobbing about the entire ordeal, but it's discussing the forced haircut that sets her off.)