Raggedy Man (1981) Poster

(1981)

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14 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
9/10
Well-acted "small" film with a lot of heart and some suspense
JanKoengeter82 September 2001
I just caught this film again on a cable channel and remembered how much I like it. Most people will consider this a "small" film because it doesn't have a lot of action, but there are some suspenseful moments - especially near the end. During World War II, Sissy Spacek plays a small-town phone operator raising her two sons on her own. In fact, the switchboard is in the home where they live. Many of the townspeople have no phone of their own and come to Sissy's home to make calls and sometimes to receive that dreaded call informing them that their husband/son, etc. has been wounded, killed or is missing in action. Oft-seen character actor R.G. Armstrong turns in his usual strong performance as Sissy's manipulative boss. Sissy's philandering former husband is played well by Sam Shepard in a small but pivotal role. Playing their usual (but this time creepy!) Southern "good ol' boys" are Tracey Walter (seen recently as the provider of "insider" evidence in ERIN BROCKOVICH) and William Sanderson (perhaps best known as Larry with his brother Darryl and his other brother Darryl on T.V.'s NEWHEART or for his role in BLADERUNNER). They make great troublemakers in this film. Henry Thomas plays Sissy's older son and reveals the strength of character and sensitivity that he will later show as Elliot in E.T. But the leads, Sissy and Eric Roberts, are my favorites. They are terrific together but also great when apart onscreen. Sissy has a fun moment alone singing and dancing as "Rum & Coca-Cola" plays on the radio while she is housecleaning. She's also good when she tries and finally succeeds at standing up to her boss. And she's definitely believable as the boys' "Mom". Eric, as a young sailor on a short leave, has a great early scene talking on the telephone and is absolutely wonderful in his scenes with the two boys. I love it when he tries to make the boys feel better as he leaves to go back to his ship - he names his two shoes after them so that they will always be with him, calling out their names with each step as he walks off down the street. And then there are the scenes with Sissy and Eric together - tender, sweet and romantic. If you have forgotten like I had, this film will remind you what a beautiful young man Eric was, before the ravages of time and how ever many broken noses he has had, changed him into the more rugged but still handsome man he is today. A few more films (STAR 80, RUNAWAY TRAIN, to name but two) have also shown us what a fine actor he is, but unfortunately, most A-list directors and producers tend to ignore him so that he has become a B-movie regular. I saw him on Broadway about 10 years ago as the lead in BURN THIS, and he was amazing. Come on, somebody, cast him in a really good role in a really good film! He deserves the role and movie-goers deserve to see him at his best. In the meantime, we can enjoy this film.
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10/10
What are you waiting for...?
hlw2728 July 1999
Go Rent This Movie! Really, it's a very good drama, set in what looks like South Central/Central Texas during WWII. Spacek and Roberts reach their thespian peaks in this film. It is a true classic with tones of despair and hopelessness, followed by love/passion and intestinal fortitude. Tremendous Realism, you'll push back the tears.
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9/10
Southern Comfort
telegonus3 July 2003
As a dyed in the wool Yankee I must confess to a certain weakness for things Southern. They seem to do everything larger than life down there, possessing a daring and a sense of style a million miles away from us hyper-rational northerners, who, though we won the Civil War, seem to have lost the culture war. Anyone ever heard of Yankee fried chicken? In the movies the South can lay claim to not only the most acclaimed movie of Hollywood's "golden age" (Gone With the Wind) to its credit, but a lot of fine little ones as well. Indeed, since the early sixties, around the time To Kill a Mockingbird, there has evolved a genre which for want of a better term one might call the Southern Art Film, which is generally a modest though not B picture with high artistic aspirations, featuring first rate actors playing believable, for the most part un-stereotyped characters (Tomorrow, Sounder, Conrack, The Great Santini, Driving Miss Daisy, The Apostle, to name just a few). Raggedy Man falls more or less into this category, as it tells its modest tale of an abandoned wife and a footloose sailor, their love, the time they spend together, how this affects her children. Not a very eventful film, its slow pace and fine acting saves it. The music, alternately jaunty and wistful is of the sort that has become a cliché, and I wish they hadn't used it. The actors are outstanding, however, with Sissy Spacek and especially Eric Roberts both in peak form. Roberts is an enigmatic presence, which works for this film. Almost too pretty to be credible at times (not his fault), his work here makes me wonder why he never became a major star. In any case, the movie is well worth catching for some very good moments and a story that pulls at the heartstrings, but in a gentle, uninsistant way, with an ending that's sad but not depressing.
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Lovely film, botched video
jereco26 November 2004
The most glorious scene of the film - a lovely and loving sequence in which Sissy Spacek dances with her broom as she sweeps the house, singing along with the Andrews Sisters' "Rum and Coca-Cola" - has been brutally excised from the video - I assume due to rights restrictions -and it's enough to make you cry. That sweet, simple scene is one of those priceless film moments that will haunt you always - if you were lucky enough to see the film before it was raped. Still, even a ravaged "Raggedy Man" (inside joke) is a marvelous film - especially for the honesty in Spacek's and Eric Roberts' portrayals, the surprise redemption delivered at the end, and the charming presence of a pre-"E.T." Henry Thomas.
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7/10
"Drinkin' rum and Coca-Cola..."
moonspinner5528 April 2006
Sissy Spacek, in her first movie after her triumphant, Oscar-winning turn as Loretta Lynn in "Coal Miner's Daughter", excels once again as a single mother with two small boys working out of her home as a telephone operator in WWII America. Eric Roberts (in surely his best performance ever) is gentle and appealing as a sailor who takes a shine to Spacek and her kids, which causes gossipy tongues to wag back in town; Sam Shepherd is the mysterious title character who lives across the street and harbors a dark secret. Fine-looking movie has a strong sense of time and place, a fairly solid script and terrific players, but the tone of the film shifts in the melodramatic final act and the narrative gets all fouled up. This portion of the picture almost feels tacked-on, and as a result the conclusion is somewhat limp. Still a pretty good entertainment, and Spacek never hits a false note. *** from ****
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7/10
Return of Boo Radley
Pamsanalyst22 November 2005
Sissy Spacek has this kind of part down pat, so praise comes too matter-of-fact. I liked the 'Aw Shucks" charm of Eric Roberts as the sailor who receives a 'Dear John" telephone call, and once he disappeared from the film, a lot of its life fizzled away. It's a small film with limited exposition, so that the dinner scene with the boys substituting their long lost father for the departed Teddy seemed to come from almost nowhere. Then despite all of their wailing, they gladly fall in with Mom's desire to move to San Antonio. Then it is headlong into a scene that is part To Kill A Mockingbird and part Straw Dogs.

The problem with the script, and I suspect the screenwriter realized this, is that the Raggedy Man sails too close to Boo Radley, and so the plot must steer away from devices like having the boys be afraid of him. Yet he cannot disappear, so we have shots of him lurking about, or shots of his shop, lest we forget he is part of the story.

I think the film would have worked without him even being part of it, a small tale of a thwarted four day liberty if told from the sailor's point of view, or better, simply a tale of a four day honeymoon for the divorced women. But heaven forbid, there would have been little action. Somehow the ending violence robbed me of my memory of Sissy dancing with her broom while the Andrews Sisters sang.
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5/10
Fatally Flawed
chinaskee1 August 2001
Sissy Spacek has never looked more beautiful than in this WW2 drama directed by her husband,art director Jack Fisk,and the chemistry between her and Eric Roberts works well,but this film has two major flaws to it that ultimately prove to be its downfall.The first is that once Eric Roberts leaves for the war,Miss Spacek very shortly thereafter gives one of her standard "I am woman,watch me roar" Declarations of Independence,which in this case is nothing more than a time filler.The second is that about 10 minutes into the film,you know exactly how its going to end,and the film doesn't disappoint,although the identity of the Raggedy Man is a bit of a suprise.The film is still worth seeing,though,for the scenes between the two leads,the beautiful cinematography,and the attention to detail.
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7/10
Sissy -- fabulous again
style-231 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
One of Sissy's finest, yet most underrated performances, with her husband (Fisk) directing her in a gripping and suspenseful screenplay by William Wittliff (*Perfect Storm* and *Legends of the Fall*). This is Fisk's first as director, but as a former art director, it is beautiful in its attention to detail, and he presents his wife with the care that only a director in love with his leading lady can do. Sissy plays a telephone operator in a small Texas town during World War II, raising her two boys and keeping to herself. While fending off the frightening attentions of a couple of the local yokels, she causes a great deal of consternation by taking up with a sailor (Roberts) passing through. He is handsome and loving, and bonds with her children, but the story takes many turns before its shattering conclusion. A neglected gem, it is a magnificent showcase for Sissy's talent.
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7/10
You're not frozen.
Steve Skafte9 March 2011
"Raggedy Man" is not a perfect film. It has a lot of good things going for it, making the unnecessary sideroads seem unlikable with their constant insistence. But as a straightforward drama, it is only just short of wondrous. The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking. Ralf Bode makes this as stunning to look at as other great midwest dramas of the period like "The Stone Boy", "Tender Mercies" or "Country". The performances by the leads - Spacek, Roberts, and young Henry Thomas (in his first role before E.T.) - are all excellent. The main story itself is also believable, and the dramatic arc is well conceived by William D. Wittliff.

But as I mentioned, that's if "Raggedy Man" was a straightforward drama. Unfortunately, it isn't. Building up throughout the film, and culminating in a grandly ill-advised finale, it has aspirations of being some sort of domestic thriller. The reasons for this are beyond my comprehension. Perhaps someone wanted a little unneeded excitement interjected into the film? That's not something I'd generally be opposed to if it weren't so poorly put across. It's a similar mistake made in a film called "The River Rat", which insisted on turning a low key father-daughter drama into a adventure movie for kids.

I have to say, though, that in spite of its sometimes misguided nature, the overwhelmingly well made aspects shine through. The vast majority of "Raggedy Man" is emotionally raw, pure and understated. It holds a convincing humanity and purity of heart. And that means something in a film that's just a bit too schizophrenic for its own good. I recommend it.
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