I was about 12 years old when I watched Matilda for the first time. I can’t say that I remember every detail like it was yesterday, but I do recall being deeply moved by Miss Honey’s (Embeth Davidtz) kindness and compassion. I remember wishing that I had Matilda's (Mara Wilson) telekinetic powers, just so I could finish my chores without lifting a finger. I also remember being so terrified of Miss Trunchbull (Pam Ferris) that she made my heart stop (anyone else have nightmares about her and that Chokey?).
Still, despite those scary moments, I found this movie oddly comforting because I was inspired by Matilda. I loved her boldness, her drive and her thirst for knowledge. But interestingly enough, I didn’t watch this film that often as a child, and I never thought to revisit the classic movie as an adult.
So, nearly two decades later, while skimming through a list of titles for movie night, I figured I’d watch this feel-good film. And as expected, it didn’t disappoint. I found myself wanting to chat with Miss Honey and join Matilda on those trips to the library. However, I also noticed two things: One, this film is quite dark and far more twisted than I originally thought, and two, Matilda is actually asking a lot in terms of suspending disbelief.
To be fair, I understand that it’s a fantasy children’s movie within the realm of Roald Dahl darkness. So of course, to some degree, we’re expected to go along with things that don’t make sense for the sake of entertainment. But in this case, I just can’t ignore the plot holes and confusing questions that were left unanswered. Here’s what I really need to know after watching Matilda, this time with a grownup sensibility,
1. How is it that no one questioned Matilda’s powers?
It’s fascinating to see Matilda learn about her abilities and hone them on her own, but the fact that no one was curious enough to ask her about this unique gift is mind-boggling. For instance, when her brother tosses a carrot at her head one night, it magically stops, spins in mid-air and travels right back into his mouth. Yet, he never bothers to ask Matilda how she did this. Then there’s the scene where Matilda demonstrates her powers for Miss Honey, who’s understandably stunned. But after this, she accepts the shocking revelation and moves things along as if nothing happened. Even Matilda’s BFF, Lavender, is surprisingly calm about Matilda’s telekinesis when she has her in mid-air!
Now, I don’t know about you guys, but if I saw Matilda reveal her powers, I would be the complete opposite of calm and I would ask a million questions. Something along the lines of, “How did it happen? Was it from an experiment? Are you secretly related to a Marvel superhero?”
2. Where was the rest of the staff when Miss Trunchbull tortured the kids at Crunchem Hall?
Remember that one scene, when Miss Trunchbull loses her temper with Amanda and tosses her several feet away by her pigtails? Or what about that gross scene where Bruce is forced to eat a giant cake in front of his classmates? If you look closely at both scenes, you’ll notice that there’s no other teacher in sight. Where in the world is Miss Honey and the rest of the staff? Are most of the teachers complicit, like Miss Truchbull’s loyal elderly school cook? Is there not at least one staff member who is bold enough to stand up to the Trunchbull and protect these students? Bottom line: The teacher-to-child ratio is clearly terrible at this institution!
3. Where did Miss Trunchbull go after she ran off?
As satisfying as it was to see the students chase Miss Trunchbull out of Crunchem Hall, watching her storm off felt a bit too open-ended. Where did she disappear to? Did she go into hiding, or did she hitchhike to another state and find another school to take over? Did she start a new life in another country, or did she come across another rich relative who conveniently needed her help? Better yet, did the authorities ever catch up to her for her crime?
4. Did the Wormwoods ever make it to Guam?
I feel like there’s a disturbing pattern where grownups get to flee from the consequences of their actions. In this case, Mr. Wormwood, a corrupt car salesman, dashes off with his wife and son because they’re trying to outrun the FBI (or shall I say the “speedboat salesmen”). I wonder, did they ever make it to their destination? Did Mr. Wormwood ever manage to pull off another con? And did his wife develop any other hobbies aside from playing bingo?
TBH, I like to imagine that both parents eventually came to their senses and made a sincere effort to be more decent people. I know it sounds far-fetched, but a girl can dream, right?
5. What happens to Matilda’s brother, Michael?
Throughout the film, Mr. Wormwood grooms his son to inherit the used car dealership, teaching Michael “tricks” like how to change a speedometer by hand. Although Michael appears to be genuinely interested in the business, it looks like he no longer has the dealership to fall back on, since his family’s on the run. What does this mean for his future, career-wise? Does he continue to follow in his crooked father’s footsteps, or does he actually learn from his dad’s mistakes and develop new interests? (Fingers crossed that it’s the latter.)
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