Runtime: 1 hr 41 m
Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse
Michelle Pfeiffer… Rose Cook Lewis
Jessica Lange…Ginny Cook Smith
Jason Robards … Larry Cook
Jennifer Jason Leigh … Caroline Cook
Colin Firth … Jess Clark
Keith Carradine … Ty Smith
Kevin Anderson … Peter Lewis
One of my favourite powerful and moving films, detailing the tragedy of child sexual abuse throughout life.
The film is an adaptation of a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Jane Smiley. The story is loosely paralleled with Shakespeare’s tragedy, ‘King Lear’, for the first half of the film. As with most film adaptations, the book is much better, but this film adaptation is better than most.
Set in the 1970s, on an American farm, an ageing patriarch, Larry Cook, (‘Lear’) plans to split his ‘Thousand Acres’ of prime farmland into a corporation between his three daughters. His two eldest married daughters, Ginny (Goneril) and Rose (‘Regan’), eagerly accept. His youngest daughter, Caroline, (‘Cordelia’) who is a city lawyer and the only one of the three to have moved away from the farm, voices her concerns about the whole thing. The father immediately deems her dead to him, and splits the land between the elder two instead. As the story unfolds, we get to know more about the history of the farm, including learning that the two elder daughters were sexually abused by their father whilst they were children, and had both protected the youngest daughter from their father, and kept the secret all their lives.
This is a story about the 3 sisters/daughters, about sisterhood, (or lack of) about women-in-patriarchal families, their husbands and children. Similar to the original King Lear, it is a long winding circle of tragedy. Unlike King Lear, it is far more sympathetic to the daughters than to any of the men. For myself, it gave me a whole new insight into, not just King Lear, but many of Shakespeare’s plays and his drawing of women characters.
With spectacular performances by the whole cast, but especially Michelle Pfeiffer and Jessica Lange, and excellent direction by Jocelyn Moorhouse, I have always been surprised why this film was trashed by critics on its first release. I can only assume that a film based on a novel written by a woman, about women, presenting men as arseholes, and directed by a woman, just doesn’t ‘cut it’ in the mainstream.
An excellent two-hankie weepie, (or box or two of tissues)!