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‘Thousand Acres’ A Greek Drama Transplanted To Bucolic Midwest

If you’re like me, you want to see Jessica Lange and Michelle Pfeiffer even under the worst circumstances. Which is pretty much what we get with “A Thousand Acres.”

Lange, Pfeiffer and Jennifer Jason Leigh play sisters who feud when their grouchy dad (Jason Robards) splits up the family farm. Lange is a timid peacemaker who sacrifices her own needs to keep everyone else happy. Ginny is much different from any other Lange role, but she’s perfect, down to the nonverbal noises with which her character communicates. You believe Lange as an insecure person, as a sister and as a farmer.

Pfeiffer plays the says-what-she-thinks sister who picks at the family’s emotional scars. Pfeiffer has most of the movie’s psychobabble dialogue (Lange is stuck with the over-embroidered narration), but she’s so direct and so unapologetically angry that you understand how she found freedom in the truth.

Unfortunately, the truth in Pfeiffer and Lange’s work underlines how fake and dopey the rest of the movie is. Director Joceylyn Moorhouse never conveys the atmosphere of a Midwestern farm, nor does she find a tone for the movie, which veers from bucolic folksiness to badly overacted melodrama. As a result, she leaves her actors looking underemployed (Leigh) or ridiculous (Robards).

“A Thousand Acres” is difficult material: heightened Greek drama transplanted to the Midwest. And there may not be any way to get all of Jane Smiley’s novel (sibling rivalry, spousal abuse, family betrayals, sexual perversion, drunk driving, attempted murder) into one movie without making it a soap opera. All I know is that, without Lange and Pfeiffer, this movie would be an unredeemable botch.

MEMO: These 2 sidebars appeared with the story:

1. “A Thousand Acres” Location: Lyons, Spokane Valley Mall and Showboat cinemas Credits: Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, starring Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jennifer Jason Leigh Running time: 1:44 Rating: R

2. OTHER VIEWS Here’s what other critics say about “A Thousand Acres:” Jay Boyar/The Orlando Sentinel: Without that balance, the movie can sometimes seem like a litany of women’s woes. That the film’s final word is “hope” is not, finally, enough to compensate. Karen Hershenson/Contra Costa Times: Some stories simply work better in print than on the big screen. And sometimes movie people try too hard to interpret material, creating something that doesn’t ring true.

These 2 sidebars appeared with the story:

1. “A Thousand Acres” Location: Lyons, Spokane Valley Mall and Showboat cinemas Credits: Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, starring Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jennifer Jason Leigh Running time: 1:44 Rating: R

2. OTHER VIEWS Here’s what other critics say about “A Thousand Acres:” Jay Boyar/The Orlando Sentinel: Without that balance, the movie can sometimes seem like a litany of women’s woes. That the film’s final word is “hope” is not, finally, enough to compensate. Karen Hershenson/Contra Costa Times: Some stories simply work better in print than on the big screen. And sometimes movie people try too hard to interpret material, creating something that doesn’t ring true.



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