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THOUSAND ACRES, A

SYNOPSIS:
Adapted from Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel, this is the saga of the Cook family, headed by patriarch Larry Cook (Jason Robards). Cook’s kingdom spans 1,000 acres, but the seed of its destruction are sown when he impulsively decides to distribute it amongst his three daughters, Ginny (Jessica Lange), Rose (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Caroline (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The decision immediately begins to create rifts in the family. Long-guarded secrets, unspoken rivalries and denied desires are unwillingly unearthed, with profound, catastrophic and ultimately liberating repercussions.

"The glowing combination of Jessica Lange and Michelle Pfeiffer is without question the highlight of A Thousand Acres, a well made if somewhat formulaic drama, but a dull, intrinsically remote script by Laura Jones and uninspired, seemingly compromised direction by Jocelyn Moorehouse, sinks it well below what it should achieve. Jones’ script not only lacks soul, but carries some absolutely appalling lines: "This past week has been hell…", after tragedy strikes. I found myself wondering how a script like this could possibly have been accepted. There were even groans of disbelief at the preview screening. The structure of voice-over narration doesn’t work here and Moorehouse is capable of far greater work than this. Lacking in dramatic pace, there’s an insipid music score which lacks individuality and oomph. But having said all that, the ravishing Lange and Pfeiffer add considerable class and give depth to their performances. Jason Robards and Jennifer Jason Leigh give good support, while the locations are pretty and showed off with the cinematography. The production values are excellent, and A Thousand Acres should have resulted in a far more satisfying outing."
Louise Keller

"As everyone else on this page says, the script doesn’t work, and when a script doesn’t work, the film doesn’t work, no matter how many great performances it offers. The structure sets out to focus on the Lear-like story of father dissecting his treasured kingdom. Half way through, it jerks into the story of father distressing his treasured daughters in their childhood beds. But neither strands are satisfactory, and neither manages a resolution. But true, the two actresses, Lange and Pfeiffer, do have terrific roles and they do terrific work. It was these two women who got together to get the film made, and asked Moorehouse to direct. That was a good idea, but the scripting job should have been given to someone else."
Andrew L. Urban

"Rumour had it that Australian director Jocelyn Moorhouse was so unhappy with this cut of the film that she wanted her name removed from the credits. Not that A Thousand Acres is a terrible film, but it is unsatisfying in so many ways. On the plus side, this is the first time Jessica Lange and Michelle Pfeiffer have ever worked together, and it's a long time coming. Playing the only two truly dimensional characters in the film, they breathe richness and life into the parts of these two tragic characters, victims of circumstance and abuse, who become strong through experience and emotional turmoil. Certainly, these two extraordinary women re fascinating to watch, every nuance, every gesture and their external and internal pain so perfectly realised. That's the good news. The bad news is that the producers asked over-rated screenwriter Laura Jones to adapt the classic novel (in turn based on Shakespeare's King Lear) into a wishy-washy, simpering, anti-male (again) screenplay. It's the same problem in all of her work, from The Piano, to Portrait of a Lady, to The Well and now this film. The male characters come off as under-written, boorish, simpering fools and the actors chosen to play them have little to work with. Only Jason Robards as the Lear character has been given a fleshy part to play with, but regrettably, it peters out. Unlike Lear, this contemporary version tampers with the thorny issue of child abuse which somehow makes Robards' character seem out of kilter together. Colin Firth crops up, totally miscast, giving the worst, one-note performance of his career. A Thousand Acres is a very spotty film, full of interesting ideas, breathtaking photography, and Lange and Pfeiffer to give it meat."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 4
Mixed: 0
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THOUSAND ACRES, A (M)
(US)

 

CAST: Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Lange, Jason Robards, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Colin Firth, Keith Carradine, Kevin Anderson, Pat Hingle, John Carroll Lynch, Anne Pitoniak, Vyto Ruginis, Michelle Williams, Elizabeth Moss, Ray Toler

PRODUCER: Marc Abraham, Lynn Arost, Steve Golin, Kate Guinzburg, Sigurjon Sighvatsson

DIRECTOR: Jocelyn Moorhouse

SCRIPT: Laura Jones (based on the novel by Jane Smiley)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tak Fujimoto

EDITOR: Maryann Brandon

MUSIC: Richard Hartley

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dan Davis

RUNNING TIME: 105 mins

 

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: PolyGram

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 7, 1998







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