Choices, choices, none rejoices
When they’ve no choice but to choose.
How can anyone decide when
Every option sees them lose?
The mind will race, the conscience brace
For all the doubts of if and why
You chose the lesser of two evils
Or the road less traveled by.
Choices, choices, haunted voices,
More ashamed than they’ll admit.
The deepest burden of a choice is
Learning how to live with it.
MPAA rating: R (mainly for language)
I’m that strange sort of guy who doesn’t seem to care about spoilers. Of course, that only increases the value of twists or plot developments I didn’t see coming, but typically I have few qualms about reading up on a movie before seeing it. Thus, I was rather surprised that, as famous as Sophie’s Choice is, I didn’t really know what the titular choice was. I suspected it during the film, but watching it play out was no less gut-wrenching, thanks more than anything to an incredible performance by Meryl Streep.
Based on William Styron’s novel, Sophie’s Choice is what I call a Triple A movie, one that is All About the Acting, and I would encourage anyone who thinks of Streep as an overrated actress to see Sophie’s Choice and be reminded of her in her prime. She isn’t the narrator, though; that honor goes to a young Peter MacNicol as aspiring author Stingo, who moves into a New York boardinghouse, only to witness a furious break-up between Polish immigrant Sophie (Streep) and her lover Nathan (Kevin Kline). Before long, though, his neighbors make up and warmly welcome Stingo into their friendship, as well as their personal problems.
MacNicol is a rather dull protagonist, whose main role is as a framing device to learn about Sophie and Nathan. Kline, on the other hand, in his first film role, is almost as astonishing as Streep, even if he gets the bulk of the foul language. His extremes of eloquent camaraderie and profound hatred are electric and so intense that I was not surprised by the eventual explanation for his behavior. How he was not nominated for an Oscar that year, I will never know, especially when Charles Durning was for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas! Come on, there’s no comparison! Even so, this movie is Streep’s forever, from her meticulously assumed Polish accent to her heart-breaking flashbacks where she speaks both Polish and German; it’s no wonder her performance is considered one for the ages.
While the two central performances in Sophie’s Choice are exceptional, it’s not a film I’d watch often, and it’s not simply because of the crushing sorrow involved. Depressing films can be some of the most powerful, like Grave of the Fireflies or The Elephant Man, and I love those films. Yet Sophie’s Choice falls into another category that leaves a certain profound emptiness. When an ending feels more like a waste than a misfortune, it’s harder to admire. I’m glad I saw Sophie’s Choice, a film that always brings my VC to tears and did this time as well, but it will be some time before I revisit its upsetting story.
Best line: (Sophie, to Stingo) “The truth does not make it easier to understand, you know. I mean, you think that you find out the truth about me, and then you’ll understand me. And then you would forgive me for all those… for all my lies.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2016 S.G. Liput
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