Oscars Project: Movie #16

(Explanation of The Oscars Project found here. This post contains SPOILERS!)

From 1985: Out of Africa

Summary: Based on the memoirs by Isak (known as "Karen" in this movie) Dinesen and a biographical book about her and one of her lovers, this movie is told from the point of view of Karen (Meryl Streep, nominated for Best Actress), a well-off Victorian-era Danish woman who is reflecting on how her life changed dramatically when she married a friend to avoid spinster-dom and tried to run a farm in Kenya. Right off the bat we get to see how much of a jerk her husband (played so well by Klaus Maria Brandauer we totally hate him and netting him a Best Supporting Actor nomination) is when instead of using Karen's money to buy a dairy farm he decides, without consulting her, to buy a coffee farm.

Coffee takes a long time to grow, and in the meantime Karen meets some nice people, including the jovial Berkeley (Michael Kitchen) and his pal, a hunter named Denys Hatton-Finch (Robert Redford). She tries to convince the chief of the local tribe of native people to allow her to set up a school and educate the children. She also finds out her husband really couldn't care less about her or his marriage vows.

Frankly, I think she should have just not come back from Denmark after leaving for there to recover from the STD her philandering husband gave her. But no, she gets involved with Denys, who, like her estranged husband, has no interest in a full-time relationship or in allowing their love relationship to change him in any way--and Karen is actually surprised and upset about all that.

So I guess this movie truly does fit the classification that Peske and West gave to this decade's movies: "Don't Worry, Be. . . in Denial" (p. 64) in that Karen got married and went to Kenya with totally unrealistic expectations, and after the husband made her sick and left her, war breaks out, her friend dies, the boyfriend leaves her and then dies suddenly in an accident, the farm goes up in flames, and she leaves the place with just a few items after having to sell off the rest, the main thing she wants to drive home to the audience--repeating both in the beginning and ending of the movie--is, "I had a farm in Africa."*

Great cast.**

Beautiful scenes, especially of the farm in Kenya. Streep is gorgeous in this movie, even during the big frizzy hair moments emblematic of Karen's doggedly traveling through the country for days to get to her husband during the war.

But around the 1:30 mark, I wanted to die. Or throttle Karen. Maybe both.

Not one of my favorites on the list so far, but at least I saw it and understand some of the Oscar buzz around it.

Next up: Coal Miner's Daughter

*The Oscar Movies by Pickard claims this is "One of the most quoted opening lines in contemporary cinema" (p. 119). I had no idea.

**Oddly enough, according to
The Oscar Movies, this movie won the most Oscars that year--yet not a single win for the cast (Ibid.).


ccr in MA said…
Wow. Thank you for saving me from feeling I ever need to see it. Denial is just not my favorite thing to watch.
Kate P said…
Yeah, could you imagine that back in '84-85, people were going on DATES to this movie??? I mean, how awful would that be???
Dave E. said…
"Yeah, could you imagine that back in '84-85, people were going on DATES to this movie??? I mean, how awful would that be???"

Um, pretty awful. I remember being wowed by the cinematography, but overall it became tedious and annoying. Not to mention, if I recall correctly, pretty much a romance killer.
Kate P said…
It was wayyyy too long, Dave. There probably were bunch of PO'd parents who had to pay their babysitters overtime, too.

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