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CRIMES OF THE HEART (1986)
Starring: Diane Keaton, Sissy Spacek, Jessica Lange, Tess Harper, Sam Shepard
Directed by Bruce Beresford
Nominated for three Academy Awards:
Best Actress, Sissy Spacek
Best Supporting Actress, Tess Harper
Best Adapted Screenplay, Beth Henley
Three Academy Award winning actresses sharing the screen together. Three established actresses who are considered to be the best of their profession. Three actresses who have proven themselves time and time again that do belong to up there with many of the greats. But unfortunately these women cannot save such miserably weak and tepid material from sinking like a stone under one thematic sub-plot after another.
Lange, Keaton, and Spacek play the Magrath sisters, three southern belles who have one to many oddities when it comes to their personalities. Lange is Meg, the oldest sister who went out to Hollywood in the hopes of making it big on the music scene. Keaton plays Lenny, the middle sister who in her lifetime has had only one serious relationship, but cut it off to care for her ailing grandfather (Hurd Hatfield). Spacek is the baby of the family, Babe, who isn't the brightest penny in the fountain, and just recently shot her abusive husband in the stomach in the hopes she would kill him, but only ended up wounding him semi-seriously. The three woman reunite in the home of the grandfather where family revelations, jealousies, old secrets long forgotten and sibling rivalry are thrown around the roomy house. Lenny hollers at Meg for eating chocolates she was given for her birthday, which everyone forgot. Meg is informed by Babe why Lenny never pursued a relationship years earlier. Babe tells Meg a secret that Lenny told her in confidence. Meg attempts to rekindle with former love Doc (Shepard). Lenny watches over grandpa with a watchful and devoted eye. Babe begins to flirt with her defense lawyer.
The movie basically goes on like this throughout its duration. One situation pops up after another, is abandoned, then brought back later on only to be resolved in the most unconvincing fashion possible. Each actress is allowed their big dramatic moment in the film, but after each has their fifth and sixth big dramatic moment, speech, bursts of laughter, teary revelations, screeches of anger, the aspirin bottle is the only thing on the mind. The story is emotionally absent and the three leading ladies are simply not strong enough to help weak material rise above it's hazy intentions. What is the purpose of several of its sub-plots? Several sub-plots that don't help the characters grow or learn from their many ordeals that they are experiencing? The story yearns to build and build onto its already paper thin plot and then spread on the layers without bothering to resolve them. At one point the grandfather slips into a coma and the girls deal with it by laughing at something Meg says (not knowing he is in a coma and ranting on about her failed attempt to get Doc back, she tells her sisters she is going to tell the old man that she has been lying to him about several different things, and if he can't handle it then he can slip into a coma).
The big dramatic moments only result in unintentional humor, and the attempts at humor fall flat on its face. The performances are nothing but disappointments, and each actress basically recycles the same emotions from scene to scene. Keaton dresses in drabby clothes and whines about this and that. Lange acts like a flussy and lights up a cigarette every five seconds. And Spacek acts all kooky and nutty, which the Academy obviously loves since they nominated her for Best Actress (out of her five nominations, this is her most undeserved). Tess Harper plays the obnoxious next door neighbor/cousin who gossips about the girls and basically yammers on about how they have shamed the family. She has about five minutes of screen time and does absolutely nothing to warrant an Oscar nomination. She's a prissy pain in the arse mouth and nothing more.
Beth Henley adapted her own stage play here and can't even muster up a manipulative emotional punch, which would have been a welcomed event considering everything about this mess goes downhill like a rocket. A shame considering the talent involved, but I guess it goes to show that when you have big names involved, there is an unneeded obligation to give them all these overblown dynamic moments that all feel contrived, and just plain boring.
My Grade: D+