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When Robert Benton wrote and directed Places in the Heart he created
his own Citizen Kane. Like Orson Welles he will spend the rest of his
life trying to better it and won't succeed.
Places in the Heart takes place in Waxahachie, Texas in 1935 and our director was born there in 1932. The film is a personal vision of his childhood in that small Texas town. It bears a whole lot of resemblance to To Kill a Mockingbird, except that the adult protagonist is not a widower lawyer, but the widowed wife of a sheriff left to fend for herself after her husband is killed.
Benton creates his characters with a loving hand, but that does not mean he doesn't see the flaws in the people there, the racism, the sexism, the hypocrisy and the pettiness. Field's husband, Ray Baker, is killed by a drunken black man accidentally. Killing a law enforcement official probably would have gotten him legally executed in any event, but the town administers its own brand of justice to the perpetrator.
That being said, it still doesn't solve the problem of a woman who has no education or training to support herself and her family. Sally gets the idea to grow cotton on the few acres her husband left her and gets a pair of strange allies in John Malkovich and Danny Glover to help her.
Glover is an itinerant hobo who is the one who if he knows anything knows cotton from his sharecropping background. He's who really holds the family together in the crisis. John Malkovich is a blind man whose brother-in-law is unctuous town banker, Lane Smith, who essentially dumps him on Field because he doesn't want to care for him. Malkovich who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor proves to be a faithful friend.
Lindsay Crouse was nominated for Best Supporting Actress as Field's sister. There's a subplot in the film involving her and her philandering husband Ed Harris.
Robert Benton won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Director and Sally Field won her second Oscar for Places in the Heart. Her character isn't as feisty as her first Oscar winner, Norma Rae, but Edna Spalding certainly has the same grit.
Period country and gospel music make up the soundtrack for Places in the Heart. Old line Protestant hymns Blessed Assurance begins the film and In The Garden is the theme for the surreal ending.
I can't describe the ending except that it is one of the most beautiful in the history of cinema. It's a vision of what promise we have either in heaven or a utopia we make on earth where the things that divide humankind are washed away and we are in fellowship with each other and our Maker.
You have to have a heart of diamond if you are not moved by Places in the Heart.
This is a beautifully told story about life in a small Texas town during the Great Depression. Sally Field's husband dies and it's up to her to raise their children and harvest the cotton crop in time to save the farm. It's a fine story, but at the end, the film springs a surprise. Who'd have thought a movie could have a coda? The last scene of the movie is so powerful that when I left the theater I literally felt like my breath had been taken away. I suspect the scene is unique in the movies, and it affects me every time I see it. I've shown this film on videotape to friends a few times, and I always whisper, "Please don't say anything to me during this last scene." It never fails, though; my friends always begin jabbering away in astonishment right in the middle of the best scene in the movie. It's not a big problem, though. They always shut up in wonder and understanding just before the credits start to roll.
This is the movie that gave Sally Field a much-deserved Oscar. This is also the film that gave Danny Glover and John Malcovich their first major exposure to the public. They are great in their respective supporting roles, sometimes making you laugh, other times wince with pain, other times empathize completely. See where they are now! The photography and music is perfect, especially the totally appropriate church songs. Set in a small central Texas town during the Depression, this film shows what a complete lie is perpetuated by "Gone With the Wind" and its depiction of the "happy cotton-picking slaves" prior to the Civil War. Edna Spaulding (Field), who has led a relatively sheltered life until tragedy suddenly strikes and uproots her entire family life as she has known it, must endure what the "happy" slaves once endured for years. And the final scene -- well, there is no way to say anything about it to keep from ruining it, other than: It comes totally unexpected. Roger Ebert didn't like it because it didn't fit with the rest of the movie. I couldn't disagree more. Roger often misses the point of a movie's ending. This is one scene that I could watch over and over, and it makes me tear up every time. At its core is a deeply held spiritual belief that transcends all other concerns. This is a must see movie! Make sure you see it with your kids!
"Places in the Heart" is one of the more under-rated films of the 1980s. Somewhat based on director Robert Benton's experiences as a youth in Waxahachie, Texas, the film deals with one woman's (Sally Field in her second Oscar-winning performance) struggle to keep her land, house, and children after her husband is killed in a freak accident. She decides that the only way to keep her life is to grow and harvest cotton (not the easiest thing in the world to do, especially during the Depression). Drifter Danny Glover is the catalyst who can bring everything together and the blind John Malkovich (Oscar-nominated) also proves to be an asset. However, racists threaten to stop Field by eliminating Glover. On the other side of town Field's sister (Lindsay Crouse, in her Oscar-nominated role) is having troubles with her husband (Ed Harris). He is having an affair with a local school-teacher (Amy Madigan) and this development could ruin her life just as quickly as Field's life has changed. "Places in the Heart" benefits from great performances, but the direction and screenplay are also second-to-none. An excellent film that was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 1984. 5 stars out of 5.
I watched this movie because from the short synopsis on Sky's information
page it sounded as though it would be a good one. Plus Sally Field and
Malkovich are two of my favourite actors.
And it was a good one. Not once throughout the course of the film did I find myself glancing at the clock in boredom. It's a remarkable movie from start to finish, although I must admit - the end scene somewhat confuses me.
The movie in short, a woman (Sally Field) is widowed and will be forced to sell her farm unless she can pay off the debts her husband left. The movie is set in 1935, and the woman takes the advice of a Negro traveller (played by Danny Glover) and sows acres of cotton. She also takes in a blind man (John Malkovich) as a border to make a few extra dollars. The events which follow are extremely well written, and excellently played by the chosen cast. Sally Field is the perfect choice for the role that she plays, as are Danny Glover and John Malkovich, who is ever so believable as a blind man.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it to others. If you enjoy heart-warming, touching stories, you'll definitely enjoy this one.
This is a great film. I remembered just how it was when I was growing up. Every scene is magnificant. This is how Texas was during this era. Edna Spaulding could have been one of my relatives. Sally Field does not act Edna Spaulding, she is Edna Spaulding.
This was a wonderful film which unfortunately I haven't seen for some
years, so forget many of the subtleties. Sally Field is superb in the
role of the Depression era Texas widow, Emma Spalding, and deserved her
second Oscar which showed that yes, we really do like her. I always
love this actress, who is especially compelling in the dramatic Norma
Rae and charming in the romantic comedy, Murphy's Romance.
The film tells the tale of a good, kind, loving, and strong woman, the widow, Emma (who has been left with with two children to raise on her own) and the pair of disparate characters who help her to literally 'save the farm'...the black drifter, Moze, who plants her cotton, and the intriguing blind border, Mr. Will, that she is forced to take on to appease the nasty banker. Because of mortgage difficulties, Emma's farm and in fact, her life are always in the hands of the local bank manager. The unlikely bond between the trio (Emma, Moze, and Mr. Will) and their shared struggle is always the very heart of the film. There are, however, other local small town characters portrayed here, including a sub-plot revolving around a pair of married folk engaged in an adulterous affair.
It's all so much more meaningful than yet another film about a widow's romance. I don't know that the local couple's affair contributes much to the movie, unless, Hollywood style, there just had to be some sexual implications of some sort or other somewhere. Many others seem to agree that this sub-plot is superfluous.
The other major roles are well cast, with Danny Glover and John Malkovich sympathetically portraying respectively Moze and Mr. Wills. As for the man involved in the affair, Ed Harris (whom I actually kinda like) always does a brilliant job portraying any sort of somewhat sleazy character!
Memorable moments...One moving scene has lingered in my mind all these years, when the newly widowed Emma helps prepare the body of her sheriff husband, Royce, for burial. This is of course so alien to us today, when compared with our modern detached funeral parlors. There is an amazing tornado scene, wonderfully photographed, that brilliantly conveys the terror of the characters seeking shelter. Plenty of high drama there! The movie also has anti-racism themes, with a dramatic scenario involving some local Ku Klux Klan members or equivalent, in which Mr. Will plays a pivotal role. And a fabulous, touching scene where Emma dances at a community shindig with her young son, Frank. I recalled it vividly a few years later during a 'first dance' with my own son.
Certainly not an action flick, but a thoughtful, touching, heartwarming story with very sympathetic characters that will engage you and earn a place in YOUR heart. The movie has a quietly dramatic ending some have questioned, but I personally found it perfect. As another reviewer cleverly noted, it 'seals' the film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My favorite relationship in the film is Possum and Mr. Wills. He's so bitter because he assumes everyone will treat him different because he is blind. Possum misses having a father figure in the house-you note she went to Mr. Wills excited and fearful for her brother's punishment for smoking. And Mr. Will's first concern when the tornado winds blew open the window on the second floor was that Possum was OK. The moment when Mr. Wills nervously calls for Possum is frightening, as you assume she didn't make it, seeing the small, scared hand grasp Mr. Wills you breathe a sigh of relief as he does and he finds himself in the position of being the comforter, strength not being a weak blind man-and he actually allows Possum to lead him to the storm-not fighting someone offering help. Amazing to me, even now......
At the time this film was released I was 20 years younger. I liked it
but it did not stay in my memory of good movies to watch. I just saw it
again today and could not leave my seat. Was it the story? Yes. Was it
the acting? Yes. More than anything it was the situations that the
characters faced. Art imitating life and doing a very good job of it.
What I liked most is that I did not think that the performances took away from the story. It's about how your life can change in a split second. Change in a way that challenges you to look at yourself deeply. It's about personal values. It is the type of story that moves me most these days. Stories about humans. It is a stunning film.
I was transfixed by this gem of a movie. All the players were without a doubt most outstanding and very professional. I am always happy to see Danny Glover in any movie. Sally Field was beyond perfect. The love scene in this movie was superflous and not really needed and seemed to me a bit off-center to the plot of the movie itself. The last scene in this movie got me right where I live. My heart constricted at the ending and, I am not ashamed to say, tears fell from my eyes. Right now as I talk about it my eyes tear up. I am happy that Sally Field won an Oscar for her portrayal of a depression-era wife and mother for she earned it ten times over. In the last scene a bible verse was quoted and I would love to know,again, what it was and where it is located in the bible. It had to do with glass and cymbals. Could anyone help out? Thanks.
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