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A THOUSAND ACRES is a drama about an American family who meets with tragedy on their land. It is the story of a father, his daughters, and their husbands, and their passion to subdue the history of their land and its stories. Written by
Jason Englisbe <email@example.com>
It couldn't have worked, but did it have to be this tedious?
The story is derived from "King Lear"; the setting is a farm in Iowa. Here's a test for this kind of thing: if you find yourself asking, "Why did so-and-so do such-and-such," and the answer is, "because that's what happened in 'King Lear'," you know that the film has failed. Well, that IS what happens here. The father figure in this story isn't living his own life, he's mimicking a fictional one. But there's more wrong with the film than this.
Jocelyn Moorhouse is ambitious - far more ambitious than I think she realises. She's trying to take the King Lear story and completely change the setting. This is a task in itself. The likeliest result is that the transplanted story will die, and nobody will quite be able to work out why (although there are enough successful transplants, like "West Side Story", to make it worth trying). But she's ALSO attempting a revisionist retelling. In the version of "King Lear" she wishes to create, Reagan and Goneril command our sympathy, and Cordelia is a villain. This is a task in itself, too.
Succeeding at either task is hard; succeeding at both at once is impossible. In fact, succeeding at one while so much as attempting the other, is impossible. If we are to look on the very same events from a different moral perspective then the events must BE the very same events - which means there can be no tampering with setting. If the story is to be transplanted, alive, into a different setting, its moral heart must keep beating the whole while - which means there can be no tampering with ethical perspective. Moorhouse was bound to fail in not just one but in both of her endeavours. And so she did. ...Naturally, it's possible to attempt both tasks, fail at both tasks, yet by some fluke hit upon a work of art that's good for independent reasons. I mention this because I haven't read Jane Smiley's novel, which, for all I know, IS good for independent reasons. But the film isn't. If there was nothing else wrong with it, there would still be no getting around the fact that it's just so thoroughly, excruciatingly DULL. The very fields of corn are even more boring than they would be in real life - which needn't be the case, since off the top of my head I can think of four films ("The Wizard of Oz", "North by Northwest", "The Straight Story", "Kikujiro") in which the cornfields aren't boring at all.
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