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Forbidden Choices Reviews

The casting of Dutch actor Rutger Hauer as the patriarch of a family of backwoods New Englanders is symptomatic of the slippery grasp this film has on its source material, the best-selling novel The Beans of Egypt, Maine. In fact, the entire cast undermines this Yankee update of GOD'S LITTLE ACRE. Alcoholic and pugnacious, Reuben "Ruby" Bean (Rutger Hauer) rides roughshod over his brood until a run-in with the marshal over illegal deer hunting lands Ruby a jail stretch for assault. While Ruby serves time, kin Beal Bean (Richard McGaw) pesters his woman, Roberta (Kelly Lynch), then impregnates teenaged neighbor Earlene (Martha Plimpton), the rebellious daughter of a Bible-thumping father (Richard Sanders). Earlene runs away from home and into Beal's arms, but returns to raise her child, until her grandmother's death plunges her into a severe depression; then Roberta takes Earlene to Ruby's place to nurse her back to health. When Roberta rejects both Ruby and Beal in favor of marriage to a rock-steady suitor, the Beans lose their anchor. Beal and Earlene marry, but the union disintegrates, despite the bond of their kids. Owed back wages, suffering from an infected splinter in his eye, and too proud to accept welfare or loans, Beal becomes a hellish caricature of Ruby. Driven crazy with fever from his infection, he rails against Earlene when she begs him to accept charity. When the police come to arrest him for shooting up rich folks' property, they gun Beal down. After his release from prison, a remarkably serene Ruby moves back home, where he and Earlene learn to emotionally nourish each other and find peace at last. Looking at this luridly misguided film--salaciously retitled FORBIDDEN CHOICES for video release--one can only guess at the qualities that made the novel a critically acclaimed best-seller. It's plagued by a cast who come across as privileged children playing a game of poor white trash at summer camp, and the combative Beans wind up resembling some horny Yankee branch of the Clampett family. The screenplay skips awkwardly over major events, and literary-flavored narration is poured over gaping expository wounds. While this device introduces the idiosyncratic voice of the novel into the film, it doesn't compensate for the crude direction--the maiden effort of actress Jennifer Warren (NIGHT MOVES)--and miscasting. The novelty of some of the story's situations, the film's jolting spurts of violence, and the soap-operatic lure of rampant sexuality may keep some viewers hooked, but THE BEANS OF EGYPT, MAINE is cinematic slumming at its most blatant. (Graphic violence, extreme profanity, extensive nudity, sexual situations, substance abuse.)