3 Stars - Wholesome
The joy of love and community trumps the thrills of money and power. Though most of us agree that this is true, it is interesting how little our actual behaviors reflect this truth. As demonstrated by our business practices, one might think that we value profit over employees and advancement over cooperation. We need the reminder to open our eyes to the surpassing value of love and community to gain a vision of how to live a better life. This is what Jonas Elmer does in his film “New In Town.”
The central character who learns this valuable lesson is Lucy Hill (Renée Zellweger). A forty-something executive who took her working-father’s advice and got an education, Lucy is competing for a CEO position in the manufacturing world. A member of the home office of a large food-producing corporation, Lucy volunteers to transition a Minnesota plant into a more profitable food line. What she doesn’t realize is that life in a small Minnesota town is very different from corporate life in Miami.
Although the weather change presents her with an obvious first adjustment, it becomes clear that this is nothing in comparison to adjusting to the difference in the people she meets. From dialect to religion, the people of Minnesota not only sound different outwardly but also different inwardly, exhibiting a practical wisdom and insight about people and values and priorities that Lucy does not at first recognize.
Treating her as both an outsider and a vulnerable person, the workers in her plant give her a hard time and a helping hand. The offer of friendship comes from Blanche Gunderson (Siobhan Fallon) whose tapioca is the envy of the town. The opportunity for love comes from Ted Mitchell (Harry Connick, Jr.). Ted is the local union representative who is also a single parent attempting to raise his daughter Bobbie (Ferron Guerreiro).
The predictable but endearing transformation that Lucy experiences within the love of a salt-of-the-earth Christian community is realistic. The application of this transformation to her business career is also helpful in giving all of us a model for how we could conduct ourselves. The realization that people matter is a lesson for every climate and every culture. It is a lesson that “New In Town” teaches well.
Lucy reveals her short-sightedness to Blanche when she explains that she was only going to let her go “before” she knew her. This position is confronted by Blanche when she asks her if it is right to let people go if you don’t know them. Do you believe it is moral when a company lets its employees go in order to make a profit for their stockholders? What other solution is there?
The love which grows between Ted and Lucy is understandable. If you were Lucy, would you live in Minnesota to be near the person you loved? Why or why not? Would you have asked Ted to move? How would this have changed their relationship?
The gathering of the townspeople around the Christmas tree to sing of the Savior’s birth was deeply moving to Lucy. Why do you think she was so moved?