Oliver Stone returns to the subject of Vietnam for a third time with HEAVEN AND EARTH, a film based on the autobiographies of Le Ly Hayslip. Stone's usual fervor is evident, but misdirected, and the result is a well-crafted but dispassionate telling of a woman's life story. Le Ly (Hiep Thi
Le) and her family lead idyllic lives in a small rice farming village in Vietnam, but the harmony is destroyed with the coming of war. After suffering much, Le Ly meets and marries an American soldier (Tommy Lee Jones) who takes her to America. There, she struggles with the complexities and
contradictions of her new life.
The sensibility that served Stone so powerfully in telling stories about white, middle class, American men becoming disillusioned with the Vietnam War is a liability in this attempt to adopt the point of view of a Vietnamese woman. Stones relies on voice-over narration to handle most of the
film's exposition, while the dramatic action seems meant to confirm what we've been told. Even though he has so much personally invested in this film, which he dedicated to his mother, director Stone seems more like a hired gun on this project.
Hiep Thi Le, in her first film role, has little opportunity to show more than one side of a person who played so many roles--peasant daughter, prisoner, black-marketeer, wife, American businesswoman. As Butler, Tommy Lee Jones is in the same predicament as his co-star. First appearing as Le Ly's
knight in shining armor, he later gets to flex his acting muscles portraying a tortured soul--a flash of complexity that seems out of place. Two strong performances come from Joan Chen and Haing S. Ngor (Oscar winner for THE KILLING FIELDS) as Le Ly's mother and father.
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: Oliver Stone returns to the subject of Vietnam for a third time with HEAVEN AND EARTH, a film based on the autobiographies of Le Ly Hayslip. Stone's usual fervor is evident, but misdirected, and the result is a well-crafted but dispassionate telling of a w… (more)