In Waxahachie, Texas, days are plodding in succession
As the white and black inhabitants survive the Great Depression.
Times are hard and money’s scarce, but life is stable as the Cross,
Till the Spaulding family suffers a debilitating loss.
Edna’s husband is the sheriff and is killed by accident,
Leaving her and her two children to attempt to pay the rent.
She is cautioned by the bank that if she cannot find the cash,
They will repossess her home, like many others since the Crash.
When a Negro man named Moses comes a-calling at her door,
She at first just gives him charity before requesting more.
Forgiving Moze of stealing, she agrees on raising cotton,
A task that he grew up with and has not at all forgotten.
In addition, she is urged to take a boarder in as well,
The bitter, blinded Will, who needs a quiet place to dwell.
As they work to bring a crop in, there are goings-on in town,
Like affairs and sudden storms that blow entire houses down.
As the price of cotton falters, Edna starts to realize
That she has to be the first to sell to win a needed prize.
She and Moze and several workers work for days and nights with speed,
As they pick the fluffy cotton till their aching fingers bleed.
They succeed in picking first, and Edna’s persevering nerve
Earns an even higher price than all her cotton may deserve.
Yet the buyer feels defrauded and he knows Moze is to blame,
So the Klan attempts to ambush him, to lynch him or to maim.
Although Will helps to save him, Moze is sure he has to leave,
And he bids farewell to Edna, knowing what he helped achieve.
With her debt for now all settled with the money she helped make,
Edna goes to church, relieved, and at communion, all partake.

Places in the Heart gave us not only one of Sally Field’s best film performances but also the immortal misquote “You like me—you really like me” as she won her second Best Actress Oscar (the first being for Norma Rae). It’s a film that recreates the Great Depression quite convincingly, yet even in situations like a bank threatening repossession or a hungry vagabond begging for work, that lost chivalry of years gone by is ever present. It depicts both the relative helplessness of women at that time and their indomitable strength, combined in Field’s Edna Spalding, who evokes a deep sense of quiet desperation as she attempts to keep her family and home together. My grandfather grew up in that kind of environment, with cornbread, country music, and cotton picking day after day, and it’s interesting to see that lifestyle brought to the screen so realistically.

Danny Glover is perfect as Moze, and though Edna’s forgiveness for his stealing her silver is taken straight from Les Miserables, he donates his assistance in return, not always agreeing with her but supporting her endeavor through the whole film. Also, John Malkovich gives an impressive and understated performance as the blind Mr. Will, who is fairly persnickety at first and warms up throughout the film. He never really has a sudden moment of character change, but Mr. Will is nicely developed through brief moments or details, such as his doing things in the dark or the scene in which he asks Edna what she looks like.

The main thing I don’t like is the subplot involving Edna’s sister and two-timing brother-in-law, played by Lindsay Crouse and Ed Harris, respectively. Both are great actors and the drama is well-handled, but the entire plotline felt out of place to me since it has no bearing or effect on the main story of Edna that we all care about. I appreciate that the filmmakers didn’t go for the explicit nudity that so many think is necessary to be Oscar material, but it nonetheless seemed like filler. (Lost alert) That being said, it was nice to see Terry O’Quinn, who played the husband of Harris’s mistress, in an early role.

Stand-out scenes include the destructive storm, which reminded me of the beginning of Twister, and the sweet and quiet moments, such as young Frank asking his mother to dance. The KKK scene is both frightening and frustrating and perhaps a bit too easily resolved. The end is the true highlight, with the final church scene being a beautiful representation of the total, unbiased communion of heaven. That last shot almost brings me to tears.

For excellent acting and a touching story of perseverance, everyone ought to see Places in the Heart. It’s one of those inspiring downers, in which much goes wrong but much is set right as well.

Best line: (Edna Spalding, in the scene that most likely won Field the Oscar) “Now you listen to me. If we lose this place, and you’re going back to begging for every meal, and Mr. Will, they’re gonna put you in the state home, and I’m going to lose what’s left of my family. I’m not going to let that happen. I don’t care what it takes. I don’t care if it kills me. I don’t care if it kills you. I’m not going to give up.”

Artistry: 9
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 5
Visual Effects: 5
Originality: 5
Watchability: 7
Other (brief language, including several N-words): -3
TOTAL: 37 out of 60

Next: #248 – X-Men: First Class

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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