|Index||9 reviews in total|
Natalie Wood in an unsung tour-de-force, playing relatively ordinary housewife and mother who has a mental collapse. Adaptation of Joyce Burditt's popular book, this TV-movie attempts to deal with touchy subject matter in a straightforward, mature, non-exploitive manner, and for the most part is quite successful. While in recovery mode, Wood is unblinking and unblushing, whether relaying her character's personal feelings or describing childhood haunts. The narrative is a bit clogged with medical minutiae (I would've preferred to see more of Wood at home with her family), however the results are relatively well-wrought and quite memorable, and Natalie's work is blessedly unaffected and heartfelt.
I had read the book by Joyce Burditt -- even wrote her a fan letter, so was prepared NOT to like this television movie. Boy, was I wrong. Natalie Wood plays a wise-cracking suburban mom with a severe alcohol addiction. She loses control in a supermarket and ends up on the seventh floor of a hospital where they put the addicts and mentally ill. She has a crush on her psychiatrist and a wonderfully warm relationship with the night supervisor played by Juliet Mills. She confronts the pain she puts her family through, especially the children. Despite the serious subject matter, she is so charming and witty you can laugh and then cry with her. Highly recommend.
An underrated TV movie.
Though it's a little dated and the variety of psychiatric stereotypes is a little annoying, but really it's a very good TV movie that I wish were available on video. It's one of Natalie Wood's best performances and she captures the Cassie Barrett character right on. The Cleveland setting gives it a great middle America setting and Marian Mercer, Shelley Long (before "Cheers") and the supporting cast are as up for this as is Natalie.
It's about alcoholism and promotes AA but doesn't go overboard in preaching to us. To the contrary, The "Cassie" character, thanks to the writing and to Natalie Wood, kick the wind out of the "typical" therapy people and methods.
Natalie Wood's performance in 'The Cracker Factory' is quite simply,
brilliant. The fact she wasn't nominated for an Emmy for this performance
unforgivable. Her character is a nuanced mix of and belligerence and
insecurity - with real depth and humour. When she found a part she could
really relate to, there was such honesty in her work.
The film itself rises above the 70's telemovie 'disease of the week' cliche, although it would have made an interesting feature film under the right director.
It's a shame that Natalie died two years after this film, it would have been fascinating to watch her grow and mature as an actress. We have such a great gallery of portraits from her - from child parts (Tomorrow is Forever, Miracle on 34th St) to ingenue roles (Rebel Without a Cause) to the leading lady material of Splendor in the Grass and Love with the Proper Stranger. She didn't do too many films in the 70's or 80's - but The Cracker Factory shows how well she had developed.
Great support by Shelley Long, Juliet Mills etc... (the music score is a little distracting though - esp. during her speech to Perry King)
I have seen the movie several times and am floored by Wood's performance each time. Highly recommended.
Having just finished Suzanne Finstad's biography of Natalie Wood, I was
eager to see The Cracker Factory because it was one of Natalie's
favorite roles and a performance that she was very proud of. I have
seen almost all of Natalie's films, and after watching this one, I can
definitely say that it is perhaps her best work as an actress. Don't
get me wrong, she was excellent in all of her films, but in The Cracker
Factory, her acting was sheer brilliance. She was extremely convincing
as Cassie, a depressed alcoholic housewife who drifts in and out of
mental treatment. The role not only called for tough dramatic acting,
which Wood of course tackles excellently, but also calls for an actress
that has great comic timing due to Cassie's acerbic wit, which Natalie
displays effortlessly and hilariously.
The supporting cast is also in top form. Peter Haskell is great as the distant husband, Perry King is good as Cassie's psychiatrist, Juliet Mills is excellent as a supportive nurse, and a young Shelley Long is superb as the manic depressive Cara. The film itself is very good overall, although the music and certain parts of the script make it obvious that it is a made for TV movie.
In a great production, however, the highest honors must go to Natalie Wood. In her biography, Finstad writes about how Natalie often felt that her acting was inferior to her peers that had studied Method Acting in New York at the Actor's Studio (like James Dean). Watching The Cracker Factory, it is obvious that she had no reason to feel that way, her acting was brilliant, as good and even better than many of the great Method actors. I only wish that Wood would have received the critical recognition for this performance that she so richly deserved.
Of course, the book is usually better. The author has time to develope the characters, while the film makers do not. That having been said, "The Cracker Factory" is a very good movie. I was pleasantly surprised. Natalie Wood did a remarkably good job of bringing Joyce Burditt's "Cassie" to life. The supporting cast was also good, especially Juliet Mills as Tinkerbell, the night nurse. A good book to read, a good movie to watch, either way, you won't feel let down.
Burt Brinckerhoff's exceptional made-for-television movie "The Cracker Factory" based upon the Joyce Rebeta-Burditt book of the same name offers a phenomenal performance by the late, great Natalie Wood. Natalie Wood shines as Cassie Barrett, a suburban alcoholic housewife who's in and out of the local hospital mental ward. She gives a rare look into the turbulent life of a wife and mother who suffers from depression, alcoholism and slight mental difficulty. Wood's Cassie Barrett is a spunky, bright individual looking for answers as to why she can't seem to handle her own life, while others do. Wood is warm, witty, intelligent and adds a special glow to this perceptive film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is the movie that proves Natalie Wood can act. Being beautiful, it
was axiomatic once in Hollywood that beautiful women couldn't act. Or
maybe it was against the entrenched male status quo way of looking at
things that they weren't allowed to act.
Anyway, 'The Cracker Factory' is about a troubled housewife, and in the part I think that Natalie Wood as Cassie Barrett, gives it all she's got. The character has mental problems and is also struggling to curb her alcoholism in the hope that she will not become a permanent mental patient and lose her husband and family. Shelly Long has a supporting part as an inmate of Wood's in the 'cracker factory' of the title. This is a true obscurity and is not listed in any film guide or credit listing of Natalie Wood's that I can get my hands on. It was made for television but looks good and has a believable script, contributions to a project that seems to have had a lot of thought put into it, unlike a lot of other movies specially made for television.
Wood gives a bravura performance reminiscent of her part in 'Splendour in the Grass', but while she was young in that film, here she is a middle aged woman struggling to maintain her sanity with an unsympathetic mother and demands at home from spouse and children that she is simply emotionally incapable of fulfilling. As a result she ends up in the 'cracker factory', and not for the first time. This situation I think is far more interesting than 'Splendour in the Grass', as the story is seen within the context of adults attempting to adjust to life's demands as they already exist, as opposed to how they are going to do so in the future. 'Splendour in the Grass' was a portrayal of life in a small town, and the social pressures on young people to avoid sex in order that they not bear the responsibility of having children too young. The roles Natalie Wood plays in both films are similar, the difference being that they are a generation apart from one another. Cassie Barrett appears to be Wilma, that is if she had ever been allowed by her mother to grow up and move away from that small Kansas town.
There is no explanation as to why Cassie gets to be in such a predicament of drinking too much, and living as if she has no responsibilities in life. Whilst in the hospital, Wood's character has a confrontation with a Catholic priest where she attempts to explain her bewilderment and despair, but it becomes obvious that the priest has no idea what she is talking about. Cassie appears to be a lapsed Catholic, but as a final straw attempts to find some answers from the church. For a Catholic priest, a woman's place is in the home with a husband and children and the priest rebuffs her as a shameful alcoholic. Character actor John Harkins gives a great performance as the staid and unfeeling man of the cloth, but the sequence in question, as well as the rest of the film belongs to Natalie. The denouement is ambiguous with Wood returning to her family for Thanksgiving with the audience not knowing how long the truce she has anxiously cobbled together with her husband is going to last.
This is a thoughtful and illuminating film which examines the effects of alcoholism and mental illness on individuals and society in a non-judgmental manner. It is very frank, and definitely for adults only. It is also a very good film that deserves to be seen by Wood fans as well as others who appreciate insightful entertainment, and comes with a high recommendation.
I have always been a big fan of Natalie Wood and own several of her movies, those of which can be purchased on DVD/Video. I have been buying her movies on DVD, or video (when DVD's can't be found). And, while seeing a little sketch of "The Cracker Factory" upon watching a TV biography of Natalie's, I became interested, realizing here was a Natalie Wood movie I have never seen but haven't been able to find. Just now I realized it was a 'made for TV movie'. I'm wondering is there any way to get a copy of this movie? I have read some good reviews from fans here, and it is highly recommended, so it makes me want to watch it even more (sorry for rambling, I was trying to get the minimum lines required).
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