The son of the richest man in town wants to marry the town's beauty queen, but then she meets an interesting stranger who just got off the train.

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The son of the richest man in town wants to marry the town's beauty queen, but then she meets an interesting stranger who just got off the train.

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Drama | Romance

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16 April 2000 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Kisvárosi szerelem  »

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The original Broadway production of "The Picnic" by William Inge opened on February 19, 1953 at the Music Box Theater, ran for 477 performances and won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1953. See more »

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Version of Picnic (1955) See more »

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A couple of sandwiches short
27 July 2003 | by (Minneapolis) – See all my reviews

Daniel Taradash did a splendid adaptation of William Inge's play back in 1955, preserving most of its structure and text while successfully fitting it into the form of a CinemaScope movie. Alas, this misguided and heavy-handed version seems to have learned little of value from Taradash's work. For some reason it's been updated, not to the present day but to 1966, perhaps to give Millie -- incredibly enough -- a chance to make a prescient but implausible speech about the coming turmoil of the Vietnam War. Did someone think this absurd insertion would somehow give the story weight and significance?

Worse, however, is the way this version misunderstands and misplays its characters. Madge, the dreamy, not-too-articulate small-town beauty has here been turned into such a shrewd, knowing woman that one suspects she discusses her problems at least once a week with a psychoanalyst. The same applies to Hal Carter who, as glumly played by Josh Brolin, comes across more as a doctoral candidate in Russian literature rather than a washed-up, not-too-bright jock. And, let's be frank, Brolin just isn't physically impressive enough with his shirt off to justify his apparent effect on women's libidos.

The characters of Howard Bevens, Millie, and Mrs. Potts are wasted and Mary Steenbergen seems utterly misdirected in the usually-glorious role of Rosemary, the old-maid schoolteacher. Utterly missing is Rosemary's sense of desperation. Bonnie Bedelia doesn't fare much better as Mrs. Owens and since this TV-movie never makes believable the college friendship between Hal and Alan Benson, Alan's turning against Hal doesn't have much impact.

The backgrounds for this filmed-in-Texas production don't match the authenticity of the 1955 film which shot most of its exteriors in Hutchinson, Kansas. The Owens home, for example, is simply too large and well-maintained for a middle-class family headed by a widowed mother who has to worry about making ends meet. The Benson home looks regrettably like something out of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."

Forget this muddle. Pay homage to the 1955 classic.


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