In 1944, divorcee Nita Longley has been brought into the small town of Gregory, Texas by the telephone company to work as its switchboard operator, a job which requires her to be at the switchboard day and night. Her boss Mr. Rigby tells her that the job would only be a stepping-stone to a more-lucrative job with regular working hours, but then he tells her that the war has frozen her position. Now Nita feels trapped, living in the telephone-switchboard office building with her two songs, adolescent Harry and infant Henry. Her divorcee status makes many of the townsfolk, especially the men, view her with contempt or She was originally told by her boss Mr. Rigby that this job would only be a stepping-stone to a more lucrative job with regular working hours, which Mr. Rigby seems to be reneging on since he has now told her that her position is frozen due to the war. As such, Nita feels trapped by this situation. Nita lives in the telephone switchboard office building with her two sons, ...Written by
Sissy Spacek followed up her Oscar-winning performance in "Coal Miner's Daughter" with this similarly affecting work in this small-scale film. It's set in a small Texas town called Gregory in 1944. While the Second World War is going on, Nita (Spacek) is working hard to raise two young boys by herself. A divorced woman, Nita has a job as a telephone operator, but yearns for something more. A potential romance with nice-guy sailor Teddy (Eric Roberts), who currently is on a few days leave, takes things out of the ordinary for her. But the ultra-creepy redneck brothers Calvin and Arnold (top character actors William Sanderson ('Deadwood') and Tracey Walter ("Repo Man")) are determined to have their way with her, and since Teddy is not going to be around for long...
"Raggedy Man" is an utterly absorbing, if not great, slice of rural American life circa the 1940s. Debuting director Jack Fisk (Spacek's real-life husband) gives the proceedings some real heart and sensitivity as well as an authentic look. (Fisk is normally an art director and production designer for the movies.) Admittedly, the finale does get melodramatic and a little ugly, but overall the film does have some charm going for it. The characters hold your attention - protagonists and antagonists alike. There is some humour as well as drama, and a lovely Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack to add to the basic effectiveness of the presentation.
Sissy is the glue to hold all of this together, as she plays a strong and independent-minded woman with the guts to stand up to her cranky boss (who's played by the always amusing R.G. Armstrong, another top character actor). Roberts is extremely likeable, delivering one of his best performances. It really is too bad he never became a true A-list star. Henry Thomas of "E.T." fame and Carey Hollis Jr. make their film debuts as Nita's two boys. At first, the film would seem to be a real waste of writer / filmmaker / actor Sam Shepard (who plays mysterious, scar-faced character Bailey), but the part is paid off in the final portion of the picture. Adding flavour to the supporting cast are such familiar faces as Bill Thurman ("The Last Picture Show") as the Sheriff, Jessie Lee Fulton ("Don't Look in the Basement") as Miss Pud, and James N. Harrell ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2") as the ticket taker.
Overall, "Raggedy Man" is well worth seeing for any fan of the various cast members.
Seven out of 10.
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