Like BREATHLESS, THREE MEN AND A BABY and COUSINS, SOMMERSBY is a Hollywood remake of a successful French film, this time THE RETURN OF MARTIN GUERRE. With the setting switched from 16th-century France to post-civil war Tennessee, the story remains largely the same: a man returns home
after an absence of several years to reclaim his wife and property, but is so changed as to arouse suspicions about his real identity.
As played by Richard Gere, Jack Sommersby seems transformed from a spoilt, mean-spirited landowner into a paragon of heroism and virtue. By day, he leads his wife (Jodie Foster) and tenants in an enlightened, profit-sharing scheme to bring prosperity back to his war-ravaged estate by growing
tobacco; by night, he takes time out from reading Homer to his young son to single-handedly rout KKK gangs who beat up his emancipated black workers.
"Sommersby" is made with enough intelligence to overcome its credulity-straining premise, and handles its outdoor scenes with epic charm. It's fun to watch the farmers nurture their precious tobacco seed into full-grown plants, at one point fighting off an invasion of swollen, wormlike bugs. The
worms are only slightly less appealing, however, than Richard Gere, whose facial expressions run the gamut from smug to smarmy. Gere's pairing opposite Jodie Foster is a fatal flaw here, with her self-contained performance reflecting his glib narcissism. Though it's billed as a romantic drama,
SOMMERSBY is better at recreating a time and place than at sparking even the faintest glimmer of passion. On this particular tobacco farm, there's plenty to smoke, but no fire.
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Like BREATHLESS, THREE MEN AND A BABY and COUSINS, SOMMERSBY is a Hollywood remake of a successful French film, this time THE RETURN OF MARTIN GUERRE. With the setting switched from 16th-century France to post-civil war Tennessee, the story remains largely… (more)