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Places in the Heart

Posted by martinteller on October 2, 2014

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this movie, even though I thought it was quite good.  I’m just going to throw some random impressions together.

Nothing about this movie truly bothered me.  The Harris/Crouse/Madigan subplot is pretty disposable and doesn’t add much to the story, but it isn’t a distraction either.  The racial element is very nicely handled, percolating quietly, imperceptibly in the background until it comes to a head at the climax, never heavy-handed or cliché.

The performances are good all around, no one sticks out as a ham.  I haven’t seen any of the other Best Actress nominees for 1985, so I can’t say I agree with the Academy’s decision, but Field is compelling enough, and it gave comics a bunch of hacky “You like me, you really like me!” jokes for years to come.

What is it about John Malkovich that makes him so compelling?  I’m not entirely convinced it’s just acting talent, but something in his sad eyes and the shape of his mouth.  You just can’t keep your eyes off that dude.

The cinematography by Nestor Almendros doesn’t reach the ecstatic lyricism of his work on Days of Heaven, but stands comfortably alongside his lovely but low-key work with Truffaut and Rohmer.  It’s a good-looking film, and one that doesn’t beat you over the head with an overbearing score.

Trivia: the kid who kills Field’s husband (not a spoiler, it happens in the first 10 minutes) is De’voreaux White, who played “Argyle” in Die Hard!  And I also found out the same guy played the kid who tries to steal from Ray Charles in The Blues Brothers.

I loved the detail about the ins and outs of cotton farming, and one of the movie’s biggest strengths is how it portrays the arduous, punishing work it is.

Little about the film is extraordinary or noteworthy, which is perhaps why it has faded from discussion.  But it’s very well put together and surprisingly restrained for a Hollywood picture of this ilk.  And that final minute is an exquisite touch, just beautiful.  It really pushed the movie over the top from the “Good” range to the “Very Good” range for me.  Rating: Very Good (82)


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