on 9 January 2010
A Thousand Acres [DVD] 
Geesh, what a flick!. This is such a powerful story about a down to earth farming family in the American midwest when the balance of power shifts...with earthy disclosures.
Jason Robards is wonderful as is Michelle Pheiffer & Jessica Lange.
Anyone who enjoys good drama with a natural simply told story will certainly want to pick up this flick. It is a dvd that you will want to see again & again.
on 17 January 2014
For her second major US film, Australian director Jocelyn Moorhouse, wife and producer of 'Muriel's Wedding's P.J Hogan, took Jane Smiley's same-titled Pulitzer winning novel, and with New Zealander screen writer Laura Jones, set this modern-day King Lear among the golden cornfields and hazy backdrops of a Midwestern farming community, where an old past-it farmer decides on a whim to divide his land equally between his three daughters. Despite an astoundingly misguided critical savaging on its released (despite it being one of the best films of 1997-the very opposite of what old recently deceased movie critic Roger Ebert), this searing drama is the pick of the crops when it comes to that rare thing in Hollywood-a leading movie where the three main stars are all woman, and three of the finest actresses of their own specific generation, no less, in Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jennifer Jason Leigh all emerging as physically plausible siblings, lending their considerable weight and class to a worthy piece that keeps its corn specifically in the fields where it should be, and while a generally soft-focused film to start with, it gets progressively darker as long suppressed demons and antagonisms begin to billow and finally explode but do in so the correct context of a ebbing river, and not the Paul Thomas Anderson approach of mass hysteria, unending screaming and hugely irritating repetition.
Jason Robards is monstrous as the utterly vile and bellicose father who immediately regrets his decision, and whose death couldn't come quick enough for this viewer, and when he's actually yelling obscenities at his daughters despite keeping them constantly worried by disappearing often on his own and ignoring them, I actually found myself matching his volume as I yelled in their defence when I first saw this a good many years ago, and haven't such a memorably vocal interaction since. Jessica Lange and Michelle Pfeiffer are absolutely sensational as the dissimilar sisters drawn together in the land dispute with this maddening tyrant, both equating brilliance in their own way; Jessica's keenness to avoid harsh realities alongside her natural gentility is hugely affecting, but it's Michelle who provides the fire, emitting cold fury and delivering the film's main horrific family revelation with staunch toughness, yet remains a loving mother to her two daughters, both of which we know well now (Michelle Williams and 'Mad Men's' Elisabeth Moss). Above all, considering the fact this is no light mid-afternoon TV dinner fix, I'm stunned that the notoriously picky Pfeiffer would pick such a tormented role, where the raping of the fields took on new meaning, not least as she once said: "When I pick roles, I look for something that doesn't offend me", a self-imposed straitjacket if ever there was one, but considering everyone knows her name, and her star power endures, she's a gold-star example that less is more, something far weaker performers like Gywneth Paltrow wouldn't be aware of, plus her family itself has always come first. But I'm so glad she took this.
Jennifer Jason Leigh is much less in evidence, but she and we accept that, and she doesn't quite up the niceness stakes, but generally the villains are all men, whether abusive, chauvinistic and cold partners, or rootless uncommitted players (Colin Firth in his most criminally forgotten role-yes even HE was in this) and family friends who impose their own judgement on hearing only half the story, this film makes you feel utterly contemptible for the way a man's world treated its own womenfolk and makes you ashamed for having a pair, but any man smart enough to be searching out something a bit deeper than than usual Jason Statham/Nicolas Cage or video game shoot-em up, it's a shame you'll only feel in natural empathy with the unfairly put upon.
Far darker and more straightforward than Moorhouse's previous US film, the almost equally worthy segment-heavy 'How To Make An American Quilt', she once again assembles a cast of thunderously weighty character actors, yet with no earlier leftovers, achieving more high points for an intriguingly downbeat style that belies the horrors in the family, with photography that mockingly frames its devastating array in warm gold and brown hues that almost mask the blood, guts and sins just under the surface soil, where stunted growth struggles with the fight for freedom.
This long awaited disc (it only ever had a brief VHS release in 2000) contains no extras sadly, but is a tasty price, and should be essential viewing for any lovers of top quality big-screen drama that doesn't shirk from the nastiness those closest to us can be capable of, and of the fight to seal it off and function beyond it. Incredibly and inexplicably, Mrs Pfeiffer wasn't even nominated for her astounding performance, an outright act of criminality, whereas Ms Lange at least was put forward, but lost out to Judi Dench for 'Mrs Brown', possibly fair enough, as she already has a clutch, but these things never seem to get in the right hands-more the wrong, as the award for Paltrow for her utterly useless role in the listless 'Shakespeare In Love' two years later further underlined.
Fields away from those moribund dramas that either wither into saccharine bilge or the screechy theatrics of high pomp, 'A Thousand Acres' is so much more than the "soap opera" it has been routinely dismissed with, and with great performances and a lovely setting balancing out the story's harsher elements, it's well worth inheriting at this fine price.
on 28 November 2009
We first saw this film on German television and it was so good we decided to buy the DVD. Some really great acting by Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Robards as well as most of the other cast members.
This film is down to earth reality and if you have not watched it you are definitely missing out on some great entertainment. For the price an absolute gift!!!!
One of the Message Boards threads at IMDb had two women talking about Colin Firth, how they watched the movie only because of him. Obviously these were two young women; but what struck me is how little this movie has been appreciated by audiences generally. The brilliant, and I mean brilliant, performances by Michelle Pfeiffer and Jessica Lange were hardly noticed, not only by audiences, but by the Academy and by most of the critics.
I think I know why. First, the plot--or actually just the setup--is a kind of bastardization of Shakespeare's King Lear with the dying, crazy patriarch and the three scheming daughters who will inherit. Their names even begin with the same letters, Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia--Rose, Ginny, and Caroline. And I guess "Larry" (Jason Robards) works for "Lear." The apparent idea envisioned by Jane Smiley in her Pulitzer Prize winning novel was to tell a Lear-like story from the point of view of the daughters, and to tell it in a sort of late twentieth century realistic way not considered by the Bard. The problem is, in Smiley and Moorhouse's story, the two older daughters are very human with strengths and weaknesses while the father is a most despicable character without much in the way of redeeming qualities. His only strength is his ability to make a financial success of the farm; however, we can even discount that since his father and grandfather before him built the farm and he inherited it.
The second problem--and this is one I cannot personally attest to, not having read Smiley's novel--is that the movie is only a limited and partial interpretation of that novel. Still, it is almost always the case that an excellent novel, especially a long and ambitious one with many psychological nuances, cannot be faithfully transferred to the screen. The vision and audio demands of film drown out the subtleties of a narration while the time constraints don't allow for the full development of character and motivation achieved by the novelist. Given five or six hours, perhaps Moorhouse could have made a movie more in keeping with Smiley's novel.
A third problem is one that is perhaps Moorhouse's alone. She began her directing career with the very well done Aussie film Proof (1991) starring Russell Crowe. She follow it up with How to Make an American Quilt (1995) which celebrated women, especially women of a certain age. However it was a bit heavy-handed and clearly and determinedly a chick flick. In a sense A Thousand Acres takes off from there, showing us not only the point of view of women, but does so in a way that may seem politically motivated to some. Larry Cook is clearly a bad, bad daddy. He beat his daughters and he had carnal knowledge of them. He ran the household with an iron fist. Jess (Colin Firth's character) seduces the inexperienced Ginny and breaks her heart for nothing more than a bit of fun it would appear. And then he goes to Rose, who clearly is going to be the power behind the new ownership, and hooks up with her, while incidentally inducing her husband to end his life in a drunken accident. The rest of the men are one-dimensional characters without nuance, the way they often appear in romance novels. I think most audiences were put off by the heavy-handed incest, adultery and sexual betrayal that was woven into the story.
Having said all this, I think the critics and the public are wrong. I think the direction was biased against men, but in this story it needed to be. I think Moorhouse did a fine job of making an emotional and engaging film about family dynamics that were none too pretty. And the acting by Pfeiffer and Lange was nothing short of sensational. They seemed to feed off of one another in a way that I found absolutely authentic and deeply moving. In particular Pfeiffer was riveting as she projected her bent-up anger and hatred. The way Moorhouse allowed her character to be revealed to us gradually is a tribute to her ability as a director as well as to Pfeiffer's outstanding performance. And the skill with which Moorhouse guided the change in Ginny's character as she went from a "ninny," as she called herself, to someone with self-awareness and some understandable bitterness, was also excellent. The fact that she left her husband was as much out of shame as anything else. He needed to go get her and forgive her and bring her back. And Robards in his intensity and madness was also very good.
I predict that this film, which bombed in theaters, will be better appreciated in the years to come as people see it on DVD. My question is, whatever happened to Moorhouse? Her talent is obvious, but she has yet to director her fourth feature film. When she does I hope she remembers to go with what she believes but to be fair as well. I think, actually she was fair to the two lead character in this film, but didn't pay enough attention to the others. In addition to the unnuanced father, Jennifer Jason Leigh's Caroline was unfinished, leaving us to wonder about why she did some of the things she did. And the husbands needed to be something more than mannequins. They needed to be engaged and involved.
on 19 November 2000
3 daughters, 1000 acres and their well-respected but tyrannical father. Larry Cook (Jason Robards) plays the bad-tempered, proud and recently retired father whom other farmers consult in regards to decisions about their farm. The discord begins when Larry publicly announces his decision to divide the 1000acres into 3 equal shares, Virginia/Ginny (Jessica Lange), Rose (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Caroline (Jennifer Jason Leigh). This gift is wavered by the youngest, Caroline, in order to think carefully into this and Larry's pride is injured. Father and daughter becomes estranged and Larry divides the farm into 2 portions but with time feels that Ginny and Rose and their families have forgotten about him and are preoccupied with having their own fun - due in part to the return of the prodigal son of a neighbour, Jess (Colin Firth) whom the girls haven't seen for a long time. Larry begins drink-driving and Ginny confiscates the keys to his truck for his own safety. This leads to the confrontation of accusations and threats between father and both daughters, which opens up honest admissions between Rose and Ginny about the lives of the Cook family. Ties and loyalties jump as Larry and Caroline take out a court order against her sisters over the management of the farm. The people in Pike feel Ginny and Rose have treated their father in an unacceptable manner. Ty (Keith Carradine) , Ginny's husband, takes Caroline's side and sisters are pitted against each other, as is father against daughters. The story is part-narrated by Ginny, the oldest. Loyal and optimistic. Being "oblivious" is how she copes with life but she is the anchor that holds the entire family together. Ty is equally nice as her husband who thinks and acts for the best of the farm. Rose is the middle sister, cynical, full of anger and hate. Says exactly what she thinks and will always fight for retribution. That's her way of coping. Peter (Kevin Anderson) plays her tough-outwardly-but-soft-inside husband. Caroline, the youngest, cannnot understand her sisters' judgement of their father, but then, she escaped their dark past. It 's not in the "kleenex" category, but still captivating in it's portrayal of the living expectations of a closely-knit community as well as looking at human misgivings. A good ensemble, and one of the rare movies where the leading women get to team up with younger men :) It's a definite in my personal collection. Sounding line from the movie: "This is what we have to offer, the same life, nothing more, nothing less."
on 19 February 2013
This film was very good but not quite as expected from the synopsis and reviews. Perhaps I missed something? Right from the beginning you have a sense that the characters have hidden depths and unresolved issues. The film demonstrated some of the difficulties facing women in cases of incest, from reasons why it is hidden to the impact on adult relationships. It also clearly highlighted social prejudice and distrust when the perpetrator is a respected member of society. The subject is dealt with very subtly and sensitively but it is still shocking and disturbing. It is not a feel good film.
on 13 March 2014
True story showing how hard work of generation can be ruined by stupidity and lust. It also in a nice way shows that we are all just humans and judging each other can only do harm then good.
Nice play from the acting team across and the drama is not exaggerated in the usual Hollywood style.
It is really pleasant to watch and leaves you with something to think about. I will definitely watch it again.
on 20 January 2013
I had recorded this film from one of the TV channels on DSTV in South Africa and they had described the film as follows :-
'When a mean-spirited old man divides his farm among his three daughters, it threatens to tear the family apart'.
Well, when my wife and i watched it the other evening, we did not move from our seats as we immersed ourselves in what can only be described as a brilliant piece of filmaking on a subject that has regretably reared its ugly head only too frequently during these past few months(Jimmy Saville!!!). It is an astonishing film that left us with not only a sour taste in our mouths due to the subject matter(I would have liked to have personally strung up the Father played by Jason Robards) but we were bedazzled in the brilliant manner in which the film dealt with this subject. It is not only an excellent family drama but deftly handles a really ugly subject that provokes plenty of soul searching.
I have never been one for all this physcological claptrap when it comes to defending criminals from a disturbed childhood,especially child abuse, which is a heinous crime worthy of the death penalty. However, after seeing this film, it made me think how do children that have been abused in their childhhod handle the physcological scars and lead relatively normal lives in their adulthood. It amazes me that so many children overcome their terrible childhood years and grow up as decent law abiding citizens. But,there are others, as often depicted on the Crime and Investigation Channel who grow up and commit terrible crimes themselves and the physcologists put it down to their upbringing.Should this be a mitigating factor when sentencing them!!!! Personally, after much consideration, i think not, as all of us are given choices but this brilliant piece on filmaking,is certainly thought provoking.
This film, in my opinion, should have been awarded an Oscar. I could not fault it in any minute detail and any serious film lover, should have this film in their collection. Michelle Pheiffer, an excellent actress, gives a performance as Rose of unbelievable depth, while Jessica Lange, who i have always thought as rather a one dimensional actress excels as the sister in denial. The rest of the cast are outstanding, the cinematography brilliant and the storyline while distatesful is mesmorising.
Don't miss it, it is one of the most underated films around.
on 16 June 2012
I have sent for so many films lately but haven't got around to watching them until the last week or so when the tv has nothing but football on so at last I am watching them and this one is one I would recommend to someone. Quite emotional but good.
on 18 April 2014
Very happy with the quality of the film.I am a big Jessica Lange fan and would recommend this to anyone who likes well acted films with a great cast.