7 October 2013

A Thousand Acres

A Thousand Acres 1997
  • Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse
  • Based on Book: by Jane Smiley and loosely on Shakespeare’s King Lear
  • Cast: Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jason Robards, Jenifer Jason Leigh, Colin Firth
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Jessica Lange - Broken Flowers, Titus, Big Fish, Sweet Dreams, Frances, Tootsie, The Postman Always Rings Twice
    • Michelle Pfeiffer – Stardust, White Oleander, I Am Sam, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Love Field, The Fantastic Baker Boys, Married to the Mafia, Frankie and Johnny, To Gillian on Her Thirty-Seventh Birthday, The Witches of Eastwick and many more
    • Jason Robards – Philadelphia, Julia, All the President’s Men, Johnny Got His Gun, old TV programs
    • Jennifer Jason Leigh – Margo at the Wedding, The Road to Perdition, eXistenZ, Kansas City, Georgia, Dolores Claiborne, Fast Times at Ridgemont High
    • Colin Firth – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The King’s Speech, Mamma Mia, Then She Found Me, Nanny McPhee, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Love Actually, Girl with the Pearl Earring, Shakespeare in Love, Fever Pitch, The English Patient. Pride and Prejudice
  • Why bought: liked the book
  • Seen:  Three times. First time about 15 years ago. Now: September 29, 2013 as the start of the King Lear film sessions.


The parallels to Lear are there.  Cruel old patriarch decides to divide his thousand acres among his three daughters. The two oldest, who already farm the land with their husbands, are happy about it.  The youngest, a lawyer in Des Moines, wants to think about it. Angry father, rejection, family council…
It’s a good basis for a modern dysfunctional family drama.  And dysfunctional they certainly are. Robards’ Larry makes Lear seem almost…well, no he doesn’t.  Lear is a horrible old man – though we can find pity for him at times – and Larry is a horrible old man.
The story focuses on the two older sisters Ginny and Rose, outstandingly played by Lange and Pfeiffer. Rose remembers every detail of their dreadful childhood. Ginny has suppressed it, trying to be the supportive, cheerful daughter and wife.  But then she starts remembering.
The youngest daughter Caroline helps the father sue to get the farm back.  Family bitterness and the scorn and contempt of the neighbors, who are regard Ginny and Rose as cruel and greedy, tear them apart.
Pfeiffer and Lange are phenomenal. The film is powerful in the interpretation of the story from the two older daughters’ point of view, an aspect which has fascinated me since I first read King Lear.
But it’s a grim film.  It’s not a film to love. It’s a film to suffer through.

3½  * of 5


PS It was fun to catch a glimpse of a very young Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men, Top of the Lake) as one of Rose’s daughters.

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