The story involves Rose Chismore's youth. She flashes back and remembers her coming-of-age. Her recollections are sometimes less than sweet, particularly those of her troubled and alcoholic...
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The story involves Rose Chismore's youth. She flashes back and remembers her coming-of-age. Her recollections are sometimes less than sweet, particularly those of her troubled and alcoholic step-father. Her memories of Robin, her first-love, are much happier and she also recalls her colorful Aunt Starr -- who's visit is fun but also detrimental to her family's health. The setting of 1950s Las Vegas' bomb testing is increasingly significant to the development of the story. Written by
Melissa Portell <email@example.com>
Underrated drama about coming of age in 50's Vegas
"Desert Bloom" (1986) is an excellent and underrated coming-of-age drama about a semi-dysfunctional family living in Las Vegas in the early 50s. The military is conducting atomic bomb testing nearby. The story mostly focuses on 13 year-old Rose (Annabeth Gish) who struggles with her relationship with her stepfather, Jack (Jon Voight). Jack suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism. Her mother, Lily (JoBeth Williams), is the pillar of the family that keeps them together and hopeful. When Lily's sexpot sister, Starr (Ellen Barkin), visits it's both a blessing and a curse.
The film grabbed my attention from the get-go, which is a good sign, and sustained it till the end. The first two acts are solid drama that build up to the more volatile final act.
Most families function satisfactorily from day to day with an undercurrent of some frustration or animosity, which leads to the occasional explosion of emotions. This is what we see in "Desert Bloom," and it's a potent explosion.
The acting is stellar, by the way. Voight's one of the greatest actors in the history of cinema and he's just so believable here. Williams, Barkin and Gish as well.
Roger Ebert inexplicably complained that the film is about two many things, but I never got this feeling for a second. Yes, the story juggles quite a few issues -- coming-of-age, atomic bomb testing, mental disorders, child abuse, alcoholism and inappropriate relations -- but they all gel together in a cohesive whole.
With all these elements the film is rich with gems to mine. Here are three that I'd like to mention:
The balding, pudgy neighbor who is boldly willing to stand up for Rose.
The solid mother who keeps her composure at all times, until she catches wind of something sinister. At that point, watch out! (But notice what she does after the emotional explosion).
The ending's emphasis on repentance, forgiveness and redemption. It's so effective it's a mite tear-inducing.
As far as the dramatic vibe goes, "Desert Bloom" is reminiscent of films like "Jacknife" (1989) and "Blue Sky" (1991). It's on par with the former and better than the latter.
The film was shot in Vegas & Tucson and runs 105 minutes.
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