Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (movie)

Released theatrically in 2008. Rated G.


On her way home from meeting a friend of Charlie's at the newspaper--and leaving an article for the editor--Kit meets Will and his young friend Countee, hoboes looking to trade work for food. Kit brings them to the back yard, where her mother is meeting with her garden club. Many of the members are a bit scandalized by them. Mrs. Howard says that her husband (who has gone to another city to look for work and will send for them) says not to give them any food; it just encourages them to stay. But Will is younger than Charlie, and Countee younger than Kit. Mrs. Kittredge convinces the boys to take some sandwiches as an advance on some work they can do tomorrow. Kit and her friends, Ruthie Smithens and Frances and Florence Stone, go up the Kit's tree house for a club meeting. But their meeting is interrupted by the sounds of the Stone family being evicted from their house next door. They have family to stay with in California, at least, but the family is gone by the next school day.

At school, the teacher is able to figure what happened, and distracts the fight about to start between Roger and Kit and Ruthie with the announcement of their year-end project. They're going to help at a soup kitchen. Kit and Ruthie are overwhelmed by the despair etched on people's faces...especially Kit's father. Like in Meet Kit, she runs off. In her tree house, she looks at the pictures she has tacked up: her friends Frances and Florence, her father. He tries to reassure her, but she's still shocked and confused. And kids in school tease her the next day, but Ruthie and Stirling come to her aid. Kit takes some comfort in knowing she has people on her side, but that evening at home her parents unveil their plan. Kit's dad is going to Chicago to look for work, and the family will take in boarders. Mrs. and Stirling Howard move in, along with dance instructor Miss Dooley and mobile librarian Miss Bond, and magician/entertainer Mr. Berk. In addition to the boarders, Will and Countee are around many days, doing various work around the house and garden in exchange for food.

While Kit is often busy helping her mother run the boarding house, she finds time to type up proposal articles for the Cincinnati Register. She finally convinces the editor to give her a chance. To research an article, Kit goes with Will and Countee to their hobo camp (Ruthie and Stirling come along too). They teach Kit about hobo signs and riding the rails, and she interviews them about how they became hoboes. It's then Kit learns that Will's been taking care of Countee since Countee's father died of influenza when the three were riding the rails. They also learn about how just a few strokes of bad luck can land someone in such a position. (Even so, Kit initially balks at keeping chickens to sell eggs, but she knows that they need some way to generate more income). The editor doesn't accept her submission, but does encourage her to keep trying. He thinks she has potential. Charlie's friend gives her a piece of advice: stop making hoboes seem sympathetic. with all the thefts attributed to hoboes, you have to write what your audience will want.

It's not long before Ruthie's house is burglarized, and Will is a suspect. There's no probable cause to arrest him...until Mr. Berk sees Will stealing the Kittredge lockbox the next night. Even though they find some stolen items in his tent at the hobo camp, Kit doesn't believe that Will did it. She heard a witness describe the culprit as having a tattoo on his arm, and Will's arm is unmarked.

The movie then skips ahead a couple weeks. Will and Countee have disappeared. The house is month from foreclosure, even after Ruthie's father tries to help. There's no word from Kit's father, and all the money was in the lockbox. Kit feels like all hope is lost when Mr. Berk's cousin arrives to stay for a few days, recovering from being mugged by a hobo. Kit sees a red tattoo on his arm! Kit, Ruthie, and Stirling quickly deduce that they've framed Will, using their entertaining and sleight-of-hand knowledge. Kit and Ruthie sneak into the room they rent, and find some of the stolen items, plus indication that they've pulled this scheme in many cities that have been reporting hobo theft and violence. The Berks--who come back briefly and discuss their plan--are about to recover the rest of their stolen items which they've buried, and then the cousin will leave with it on a train. Kit hides in their car, and Ruthie and Stirling are able to follow shortly after with Miss Bond, who also calls the police.

But wait...the Kittredge phone has been cut off since spring. She's part of the ruse, Mr. Berk's girlfriend! The kids realize just in time, and are able to distract them long enough to get the lockbox back and escape to the hobo camp. Will is there, and he doesn't quite understand their out-of-breath, fragmented pleading, but he does help them. The Berks and Miss Bond follow and wrest the lockbox from Kit, but the hoboes come to the rescue...and so does Miss Bond! She's seen how much their theft is hurting real people, and can't stand it anymore. Will is exonerated, and he has another surprise: Countee is short for Constance--she's a girl! Like in Kit Saves the Day, he disguised the child as a boy because of how dangerous it is for girls to ride the rails. The whole hobo camp is relieved to have the police off their backs, and more than happy to take the real culprits to them. Moved by the story, some people even send money to the Kittredge family.

Everything's better...except that Kit's father is still gone, and there haven't been any letters in weeks. Thanksgiving rolls around and there's a knock at the door. One would expect Mr. Kittredge, but it's Will and Countee, and the other residents of the hobo camp. They want to express their gratitude to Kit for solving the "hobo" crime spree, so they've brought a variety of food. Mrs. Kittredge is very touched, and invites them all in for Thanksgiving, certainly ruffling Uncle Hendrick's feathers.

But that's not the right note to end the movie on. Kit sees another figure walking to the door in the moonlight: her dad. He never found work, but he may as well be unemployed in Cincinnati with his family as in Chicago without them. And that's still not a good enough ending. The newspaper editor stops by right after, with the latest edition of the paper. Kit's published! Miss Dooley even invites him in and the two singles hit it off right away. AND Countee demonstrates how she's learned to read (Stirling traded her reading lessons for learning hobo signs). The movie ends with Stirling and Countee being inducted into Kit's tree house club, with Kit confident that she can take whatever life throws at her.


I briefly read the opening credit "HBO Films" as "Hobo Films." Fitting!

The movie starts May 2, 1934, while Meet Kit opens in 1932. Charlie is already away working with the Civilian Conservation Corps. Kit turns ten offscreen.

Here, Grace came with her name written on the cardboard note about not being able to feed the dog anymore. Kit finds her on a walk with her mother before her father loses his job. Kit convinces her to let the dog stay for "one night" and you can guess how that goes. The dog playing her looks old, with that grey-white marking on the face older dogs get.

Uncle Hendrick's characterization is pretty good, but I don't see why a miser would scoff at saving leftovers. It's good fiscal sense.

You know that zoom effect made so famous in Jaws, when Chief Brody realizes he's watching a shark attack? It's called a dolly zoom or vertigo shot. This movie uses it when Kit's teacher comes upon some kids verbally sparring. Because it's the same level of emotion, I guess?

Kit's paternal grandfather died later in her dad's childhood, or he refers to his adopted father as his dad, judging by a story he tells about a car. Aunt Millie is mentioned in the movie, but not seen onscreen.

Kit's dad rides a Trailways bus. That's the same company featured in The Shawshank Redemption, my favorite movie.

Wallace Shawn is NOT how I pictured the newspaper editor from the books, but he does a good job. 

During an magic show, Mr. Berk says that he's "levitated" a dancer instructor in the past, in a if-you-know-what-I-mean way.

The interactions with the Berk brothers reminds me of scenes in A Fish Called Wanda.

When Stirling sends a letter "from" his father in the movie, he has $40 to attach instead of $20. He sends the letter after her mother takes off her wedding and engagement rings when boarders decide to give Mrs. Kittredge their valuable to lock up.

I still think my uncle's Thanksgiving homecoming is the best. I wrote about it  Changes for Molly.

During the Thanksgiving party, Stirling talks to a hobo who had mentioned that he left his wife and three children, including a son Stirling's age, back home while he looked for work. He asks the man to write to his son, and the man seems very moved by the request. My grandmother has a Christmas tradition of buying sweaters and coats for men in a homeless shelter, and she always includes a pen, a stamped envelope, and some paper, with instructions for the men to write their mothers or someone else to let them know where they are and what's happening in their lives.

Kit Kittredge - Abigail Breslin
Mrs. Kittredge - Julie Ormond
Mr. Kittredge - Chris O'Donnell
Miss Dooley - Jane Krakowski
Mr. Gibson - Wallace Shawn
Will Shepard - Max Thieriot
Countee - Willow Smith
Mrs. Howard - Glenne Headly
Stirling Howard - Zach Mills
Uncle Kendrick - Kenneth Walsh
Ruthie Smithens - Madison Davenport
Miss Bond - Joan Cusack
Jefferson Berk - Stanley Tucci
Fredrich Berk - Dylan Smith
Billy - Douglas Nyback
Reporter - Dylan Roberts
Teacher - Martin Doyle
Mr. Pennington - Colin Mochrie
Hobo Doctor - Martin Roach
Roger - Austin Macdonald
Frances Stone - Brieanne Jansen
Florence Stone - Erin Hilgartner
Sheriff - Peter Macneill
Garden Club Ladies - Erin McMurty and Joanna Swan
Blonde Bully - Eddie Max Huband
Wallet Man - Frank McAnulty
Soup Kitchen Woman -  Anna Louise Richardson
Neighbor - David Talbot
Deputy - Darryn Lucio
Mr. Stone - John Healy
Mrs. Stone - Colette Kendall
Newsboy - Quincy Bullen
Classmates - Elizabeth Perez and Jordan Rackley
Sax-Playing Hobo - Eddie Graf
Hobo Boy - Liam Powley-Webster

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