Places in the Heart (1984) Poster

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Our Own Blessed Assurance Of A Beautiful Garden Of Fellowship
bkoganbing14 August 2007
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.
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A fine movie with a breathtaking final scene
Bill-30831 January 1999
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.
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Memorable Depression era tale of a rural Southern widow
roghache15 March 2006
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.
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Depression-Era Drama That Never Gets Old
tfrizzell26 September 2000
"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.
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One of my favorite all-time films
jjh651929 February 2000
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!
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A very nice surprise!
bouncingoffwall30 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Very good film in which Sally Fields portrays Edna, a character whose life turns upside down one evening. From one day to the next, she goes from being housewife to head of household. She is hounded by the bank, victimized, and even manipulated into taking in a boarder.

***POSSIBLE MINOR SPOILER*** This woman, though, is very courageous, and even uses for survival purposes the man who intended to victimize her and skip town. She is also kind and loving, coming to care for the would-be thief and pedantic boarder as if they were part of her family. They come to care for her, too, and all work together to ensure a better future, with mixed results.

Places in the Heart is about the place those whom you have loved and cared about in your life inhabit; a place very deep within your being. No one ever completely disappears from your life even though they be dead since they will always live on in your heart.
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If you are undergoing personal challenges this is a good film to watch.
lahabana5129 January 2006
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.
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A remarkable movie from start to finish.
Bi Ling3 September 2001
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 John 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.
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Deeply moving story.
buck-4210 December 2000
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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A thoughtful quote from Robert Benton
rwchapman017 April 2006
Just a suggestion for "memorable quotes":

During the film, while the Spaulding kids are trying Malkovich's player, I believe, a brief excerpt from "Trent's Last Case" is heard. Within it is a major, if not the major, theme of the film. I think you should include it among your memorable quotes:

"Between what matters and what seems to matter, how will the world we know choose wisely?"

Most of the film involves characters making choices, many of them difficult, some of them life-threatening. These choices are put into startling relief by the ending sequence of the movie. Although it would be a disservice to summarize Benton's story as just a parable for our times, his comment about choices is extremely thought-provoking.

It is a challenging question for all of us.

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I went back and remembered
jo-10413 September 1999
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.
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Possum and Mr. Wills
katzinoire5 July 2005
Warning: 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......
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One of the best American films
nuntukamen24 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
POSSIBLE SPOILER This film is extraordinary simply because it is outstandingly written, directed and acted. During the closing scene, which perplexes some, I literally gasped out loud the first time that I saw it in a theater. At the time, I was writing reviews for an art/music magazine, and the experience was totally unexpected. I went five consecutive nights and took a different friend, parent, or family member each night. We discussed those closing images for months.

Every actor excels in accomplishment, even the minor ones, such as Lane Smith as the banker, Jay Patterson as Sheriff Royce Spaulding, and especially Ray Baker as W.E. Simmons, the ever-righteous and arrogant Klan member. These people are as memorable as those we meet and get to know in our own lives, and they stay with us through our lifetimes, just like Charles Foster kane, Elwood P. Dowd, and Scarlett O'Hara, and so many, many important others from the celluloid world. If they handed out Academy Awards for minor roles (why don't they; they give everyone else one?) all three of these actors would have won. Lindsay Crouse was nominated for Best Supporting actress, Sally Fields won Best Actress, and Robert Benton took the prize for Best Screenplay. It was also nominated for Best Costume Design, Best Director, and the Best Picture of the Year.

The scene of Edna Spaulding negotiating a price for her cotton with W.E. Simmons, the Klansman, who thinks he will bulldoze the poor widow for some extra profit, is a treasure all in and of itself.

The affair, also perplexing and out of place for many commentators, is essential; it truly cements in the viewers eye (and before the eye of the storm crashes in)how the pressure of small town life is closing in around the throat of Amy Madigan's character, Viola Kelsey, a pressure mostly created by her own choices. Her lover, Wayne Lomax (Ed Harris), husband to Edna Spaulding's (Sally Fields) sister (Lindsay Crouse), is just as frustrated, but far more self-destructing and willing to risk it all for what amounts to nothing, even as he dreams about it being more. The film shows the shedding of values and commitments for a little hankypanky that is just as destructive realistically as the tornado or the Klan. Maybe more so, which I think was the point of Benton's adding it as a subplot. Viola may blame the storm for her obsessive desire to get out of town, but the male characters and the audience know better.

Each character, such as John Malkovich's obsession with his precious records, has a special something they prize and hold onto, but eventually find valueless in the process of surviving with those around them. Danny Glover's Moze, though, is forced by the Klan to give up the most richly given gift in the movie; friendship and the comfort of a home that he loves, because he has been spiritually loved there.

The lethal tornado, outside of themselves and their decisions, is the only real monster in the lives of these good and hardworking Americans. The Depression is just a condition they live with. The bank and the banker (Lane Smith) make life tough while meaning to be helpful, but Edna Spaulding's determination is stronger than a vault of steel. Mother Nature provides the tornado, and the Klan provides the bad guy. Willy, the boy who shoots the sheriff, is actually his friend, or as much of one that a young black person could have been to a white sheriff in 1935 Texas. When he reappears in the communion scene that ends the film, so much is implied by his presence, and that of the deceased husband, that the true value of our lives and the things we share becomes explicit without a single word being said about it. My initial gasp was genuine, audible, and shocking to myself. This film is an artistic achievement rarely matched, and is on a personal list of the top 20 American films ever made. As stated, like any great film, the characters remain with you just like real people you have actually known. There isn't a weak moment of writing or acting in the entire film.
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THE Most Under-Rated Movie of All Time
Natalie-3115 November 2002
This is a great film, in my personal top ten of all time. I know several people who did not like the ending, the affair, the title. All I can say is you have to think about this one. It's not trite nonsense like "A Beautiful Mind." When the ending arrives, think about what it means to love and forgive. Think about people in your life that have left for one reason or another. Think about where it is that those people that affected you still exist (hence the brilliant title and ending). When I saw this film in the theater, I was so stunned by the ending that I couldn't speak. I didn't just cry. I burst into tears. It is so touching and relevant to the themes of the whole movie--forgiveness, love, brotherhood. I have zero respect for the AFI and any other silly list makers when they leave PLACES IN THE HEART out of their top 100 or 200.
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Nostalgic look back--especially for anyone who's lived in TX; an overlooked performance; and the folly of watching a movie once too often
FilmNutgm22 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers

Others have done an excellent job of describing both the plot and the fine lead performances. I think this is a film that speaks strongest to those who have either tried to make a living off the land or have/had grandparents or great grandparents who fought to survive on a hardscrabble farm during the Depression. Spending some time in Texas and getting to know the lay of the land probably ups the enjoyment factor, too.

Many people have rightly pointed out the superb performances of the leads, but the more I watch this film, the more impressed I am with the performance of Terry O'Quinn, who played Buddy, Viola's husband. I'm so used to seeing him play either psychopaths or hard-charging soldiers or ruthless businessmen that it was a real treat to see him play such a "normal" character. In his short screen time, he conveyed warmth, tenderness, and concern and made you wish that the secondary story of the affair between Wayne and Viola had been fleshed out so you could understand how two people who had apparently loving spouses could decide to cheat on them--and by extension, their best friends. His performance really sticks with me.

I know some people are dismissive of the trio of people who band together as just "a handful of cliches", but ask yourself: How could it have been written any differently? A drifter HAD to be the one to suggest that Mrs. Spaulding grow cotton. As concerned as friends and loved ones were about her, they not only lacked money to help her, but had seen her as the physically delicate, genteel sheriff's wife for so long that it never would have occurred to them to suggest she take up farming. A stranger had to point that solution out. If the drifter had been white, the underlying messages about racism and prejudice would have been lost--and the film would have been poorer for it--and some audience members would have been disappointed that the drifter and the widow didn't get together. Because the racial divides of this time and place have already been graphically illustrated, the audience doesn't expect a typical Hollywood foray into a romantic subplot. As for the blind character, he was there because he had nowhere else to go and the way he became a boarder pointed out how under the thumb of anyone who had money and/or power people like Edna were. She didn't want to take in a sightless boarder; she was pressured into it. If he could have seen, he would have been living by himself and the vignette that very powerfully delineated how the bank held Edna's life in its hands would have been lost.

I like this film so much, I watch it often--and there's the rub. The more I see it, the more I wish the adultery subplot had been developed; the more I wish minor characters like the dance band leader or the flashy-looking beauty shop customer had been fleshed out. I start to wonder why the sisters laugh when one mentions who made the funeral cake. Was she a notoriously bad cook or a good one that bragged constantly about her baking prowess? The most startling thing I noticed on a recent viewing was how quickly the crux of the film--will back-breaking labor save the farm?--really played out. When we see characters out in the hot sun-- literally crawling on the ground--to get the crop in, I felt like these poor souls had spent months like this. I suddenly realized that it had to be about a week or two. I'm NOT belittling the effort it takes to plant, chop, and pick cotton. I was just a little shocked to figure out how compressed all that exhausting harvesting time was. See what I mean about watching a film too much?

I love this film. I'm glad I saw it the first time. I hope to enjoy it as much the tenth or twentieth time I see it. It's a great antidote for those days when I just want to give up because I'm broke and/or have too much to do.
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Slice of life in small town Texas of the 1930s.
jbashe25 August 1999
Robert Benton draws on his experience to provide a slice of life picture of 1930s Texas. Sally Fields gives a performance which is the glue for the other actors to work around. John Malkovich and Danny Glover give excellent character performances which add to the breadth of the piece. If you think your life is hard right now, watch this piece and take a little heart.
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Triumphant cinema
gcd7016 August 2007
Scene after scene delights in this tale of tragedy and the strength of the human spirit. Writer-director Robert Benton handles the drama superbly and realistically (once again showing his expertise as he did with "Kramer vs. Kramer"); the cast members do likewise. "Places in the Heart" is a great tear-jerker that will also make you smile, many times. A must see film about human triumph over disaster.

Sally Field earned a well-deserved Oscar as she delivered a great performance along with Danny Glover as Moses and John Malkovich as Mr. Will. "Places in the Heart" was nominated for seven Oscars in total, including Best Picture. Along with Sally Field, Robert Benton got the nod for his fine original screenplay.

Tuesday, November 26, 1991 - Video

One of the best dramas of our time. This magnificent film never fails to stir the emotions. The whole cast is brilliant, as is Robert Benton's direction. Great cinema.

Monday, April 20, 1992 - Video
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Despite losing it's focus at times, Places is still worth watching
clydestuff31 July 2003
Places in the Heart was one of three Hard Times Down On The Farm films released in 1984/1985. The other two were, Country with Jessica Lange and The River with Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek. Places, is the one that sticks solidly in most viewer's minds, if for no other reason than the fact that Sally Field won her second oscar for her role as Edna Spalding. Having recently posted my comments regarding The River, I dusted off the old vhs copy of Places that I have in my collection, and gave it another viewing. It had been years since I had seen it and remembered little about it except for ending which, as others have noted, sticks in your mind, but more about that later.

All three of these films revolve around the same theme which is trying not to lose the farm with one problem after another cropping up like an acre of cotton. On top of that, in Places we scenes of racial hatred and adultery, just to be sure there is enough misery for everyone to conquer in the film's almost two hour running time. Not to worry though, as it moves along from scene to scene at a fast clip, thanks to some good performances, not only by Fields, but everyone involved.

In the beginning of the film, Edna's husband Royce (Ray Baker), who is also the town sheriff, is called out to take care of a black kid named Wiley (De'vooreaux White), who is drunk and shooting off a pistol aimlessly. Frank is accidentally killed by Wylie, and his body is carried home to the now widowed Edna, and their two children Frank and Possum. In those days, not having any money, you just took care of the body yourself, so in a difficult to watch scene, Edna and her sister Margaret prepare Royce's body for a funeral burial. Wylie is tied to the back of a truck, dragged along the road till he dies, then dragged up to the front of the Spaulding home. Then his body is taken out and is given back to Wylie's family and friends by hanging it from a tree for them to cut down. And that's just in the first fifteen minutes or so of Places In The Heart.

Later, Edna meets Moze (Danny Glover), who offers to help her around the farm in exchange for a place to sleep and some food. She refuses at first, but after Moses steals some silverware from her and is apprehended and brought back, she lies about the stolen silverware to not only save him, but so that he can help her with a cotton crop in order to save the farm. Shortly thereafter, this Edna is forced to take in a blind man named Mr. Will(John Malkovich) as a border, in order to show good faith to the bank that she will meet her house payment.

The majority of the time in the film is spent dealing with Edna along with her two children, Moze's, and Mr. Will, developing a bond of friendship, along with Edna's and Moze's attempt to get their cotton crop planted and harvested. As in all films of this genre, there are many obstacles that they have to overcome, before we get to a final resolution.

As I mentioned earlier, the problem with Places in the Heart, is not the acting. Everyone involved is terrific, with Fields, Glover, and Malkovich, exceptional as always. What's wrong with this film is that at times it loses it's focus. It seems to want to be a character study of people triumphing over tragedy, then suddenly it wanders off into a story about racial hatred, and just for good measure it throws in an adultery story with Wayne (Ed Harris), dividing his time between his wife Margret and his already married mistress Viola (Amy Madigan). It is this subplot that writer/director Robert Benton could easily have left on the cutting room floor. It's an unnecessary distraction, and seems totally out of place with the rest of the film, doing nothing more than increase the running time. It's as if Benton wanted to be sure everyone got their moneys worth, or at the very least have time to finish their popcorn and soda.

Some of the comments posted here have mentioned the ending which they consider somehow to be intensely moving. I found it to be quite heavy handed myself, and hurts the film more than helps it as you are left staring at the screen saying HUH?

Despite it's faults, Places in the Heart is still worth watching, just to watch the lead actors at the top of their craft. It is beautifully photographed (but not close to the sumptuous cinematography of The River), nicely paced so it doesn't bog down, has well written characters that we can believe existed in Texas during the depression, and does capture a nice feel for that era. Robert Benton pulls no punches in telling us this story of the American Spirit, but reminds us in the process, that there was also an ugly part of American History, that should never be commended let alone forgotten. For not pulling any punches in that regard, I admire him.
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Bread and Wine
gurghi-21 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The first time through, you think you've seen Places In The Heart before, this meager drama of pathos set in a simpler time. Sure, it's acted by a prestigious ensemble. And yes, the story it tells is nothing if not respectable. But even the title is generic and sentimental, like any number of Hallmark TV movies. Sally Field's acceptance speech for her (deserved) Oscar win is better remembered today than the movie itself.

At its most powerful, film juxtaposes images to create ideas in the mind of the audience. By this measure, the last shot of Places In The Heart is among the most transformative in all of movies. Taken out of context, it has no significance, and yet is so startling and unexpected —while at the same time so gentle and so much in keeping with all that's come before it— that it might first be confusing. It's one of the greatest shots in movies, because it re-contextualizes all that comes before it.

What writer-director Robert Benton aims at and finally accomplishes in Places In The Heart is so beautiful that the movie transcends its origins as a period piece to become a picture of nothing less than the kingdom of heaven.
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Just like a story my Grandma told me
bobbobwhite19 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
She was from the South, and I have heard so many stories just like this movie that it seemed like "old home week" for me to watch it.

This film was often tough to watch but turned into a real joy of a story, as it told of hard depression times in the South when people struggled economically just to live, and often struggled against each other while doing so. Oscar-winner Sally Field was marvelous as was the entire cast, as the depression-age South never seemed more authentic including the sadness and shame of class poverty, the abject guilt of marital infidelity, the no-power position of women then, severe racial injustices and the oppression and torture of blacks, the unopposed power of the church and the resulting hypocrisies of the churchgoers, natural calamities that took away nearly everything, and how all that resolved itself into one of the most involving films of the '80's, and one where all people magically came together as one at the end, just as they do in our heavenly and utopian dreams.

One of the best story endings of all time as the entire cast of characters, those still living at the end and those who died in the film, were shown sitting alive together in the church in a fantasy communion scene with one of my Grandma's favorite hymns playing in the background. Extremely creative, touching and soulful scene. Your heart will break for sure.

Those who truly enjoyed this film would also greatly enjoy another terrific Southern film, "The Trip To Bountiful".
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Flawed, though exceptionally tender and well-acted
moonspinner5522 March 2007
That thudding, metaphorical title not withstanding (thankfully it isn't literal), this is a lovely reminiscence from writer-director Robert Benton, an autobiographical story about a Texas brood during the Depression having to make ends meet after the family patriarch is killed. Sally Field won a well-deserved Oscar as the widow who decides to grow cotton on her land to save her house from being taken by the bank; Danny Glover gives his best performance as a drifter who helps her and John Malkovich is equally good as a blind boarder. What doesn't work is a sub-plot concerning Field's sister (Lindsay Crouse) and her marital problems: seems husband Ed Harris has the roving eye, but his affair with Crouse-lookalike Amy Madigan doesn't involve us the way it is meant to--we just bide our time waiting for Field's return. Still it's a gently sentimental tale, full of great care and disarming gumshun, though the tag at the end (more metaphors!) comes off cold. **1/2 from ****
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My all-time favorite movie!
DixieDenise2 July 2002
This movie could not be better. Each character is so developed and each actor fits the character to perfection. Do not miss stellar performances by Sally Field, John Malcovich, Danny Glover, Ed Harris, and all the others.
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Strong Depression-era drama
jhaggardjr29 October 2000
"Places in the Heart" is a very strong, extremely well made drama that takes place during the Depression in the mid-30s. Sally Field gives a powerful, Oscar-winning performance as Edna Spaulding, a wife and mother of two kids who becomes widowed after a drunk accidentally shoots her husband. To make matters worse, she's on the verge of losing her home because of a lack of money to pay off the mortgage. So she decides to make some money by planting cotton. She takes in a very friendly black man (wonderfully played by Danny Glover in one of his early film roles) who helps her get and plant the cotton, and a smart blind man (played by John Malkovich in an Oscar-nominated performance) who's a paying boarder. These three adults and the two children form a little family together, and this is the part of "Places in the Heart" that works best. There are other characters that add to the story. Lindsey Crouse was also Oscar-nominated for her portrayl of Field's sister who comes to help out after tragedy strikes early on. Ed Harris plays Crouse's husband, who's having an affair with a woman (Amy Madigan, or the real-life Mrs. Ed Harris) who's a close friend of Crouse's. This affair subplot is rather unnecessary and it slows down the momentum a bit. But it's only a minor setback to an otherwise strong film. All the performances are top-notch. Field has never been better. She's the one you can't take your eyes off in this movie. Glover, Malkovich, Crouse, Harris, and Madigan offer great support. "Places in the Heart" comes from Robert Benton, the same man who made the outstanding 1979 Oscar-winning Best Picture "Kramer Vs. Kramer". This movie is based on some of the experiences that Benton went through in real-life during the Depression, and he captures the look of the mid-1930s beautifully. He was honored with the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for "Places in the Heart" and deservedly so (he was also nominated for Best Director but lost that award). This is a terrific film with strong powerful performances. If only that affair subplot had been taken out, this movie would have been perfect.

***1/2 (out of four)
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Perceptible look at life in the Depression 1930s with a portentous Sally Field
ma-cortes10 November 2008
This is an exquisite mood piece about the turbulent life of a widow set against mid-Western cotton farm at the turn of the great Depression 1930s , in which Sally Field won well-deserved Oscar for her magnificent acting and equally Robert Benton for his original script . It deals with a mother named Edna Spalding (Sally Field) of two sons is suddenly widowed to a sheriff (Ray Baker). Edna is persisted to survey facing the pressure by the bank to sell her farm . She fights her fateful fate along with an African-American (Danny Glover) and a blind (John Malkovich).

It's a sensitive and intimate look at hometown childhood , an affectionate film celebrating the spiritual force of the human will ; being based on records and memories well written by Robert Benton about his little town , Waxahachid , Texas . It takes part of a mini-cycle of farming movies that all debuted in 1984 . The films include Country (1984 ), The river (1984) and this one (1984). All three pictures were nominated that year for the Best Actress Academy Award with Sally Field winning the Oscar in that category for the latter beating out Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek from the first two films respectively . Extraordinary performances from film stars , as this flick gave actress Sally Field her second and final to date , Academy Award and both in the Best Actress in a Leading Role category ; Field's first had been around five years earlier for Norma Rae (1979) in 1980 . Supporting cast is frankly magnificent , such as : Amy Madigan , Linsay Crouse , Terry O'Quinn but special mention for Danny Glover , Ed Harris and John Malkovich . Being one of numerous filmed collaborations of married actors Ed Harris and Amy Madigan.

Originally shown in lively colors by cameraman Nestor Almendros , Robert Benton's usual photographer , who previously won Oscar for ¨Days of heaven¨, though its visual beauty will be decreased on TV . The motion picture was very well directed by writer-director Robert Benton . This filmmaker and screenwriter, Robert Benton , set the film in his birthplace of Waxahachie , Texas in 1935, three years after he was born there . He's a films-dramas expert such as proved in ¨Human stain¨ , ¨Twilight¨ , ¨Still of the night¨ , ¨Billy Bathgate¨ and his greatest hit : ¨Kramer vs Kramer¨. Rating : Better than average, it's a great movie so well realized that is hard not to like .
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One of my all-time top five, to say the least. An unforgettable movie.
badgersdrift21 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A reviewer asked about the Bible verse quoted in the last scene: It's I Corinthians 13: 1: " Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (agape love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."

I too was confused by the ending until I woke up and noticed that in the congregation taking the Lord's Supper are Sally Fields' dead husband sitting with his family and the young black boy who killed him, her sister & husband, the already-departed school teacher and her husband, the kind old lady killed in her car during the cyclone....

If you really can't understand either the title or the last scene, I don't think it can be explained to you.

I think my favorite scene is near the end, when Sally Fields is sitting at the kitchen table after supper cutting cardboard soles for her son's worn-out shoes and John Malkovich comes in and asks if he might make a cup of tea. While he's waiting for the kettle to boil he finally gets out the question you could see he'd been trying to work up courage to ask: "What do you look like?" I can still see the play of expressions on both their faces and I can quote her sweet answer almost verbatim.

You are fairly certain, after that scene, that the two of them will end up together--and what a nice thought.
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