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
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© 2014 S. G. Liput
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