A Thousand Acres

Proof that Hollywood no longer knows how to make that former staple, the women's picture, this unsuccessful weeper chronicles the dissolution of a family farm through the eyes of dutiful eldest daughter Ginny (Jessica Lange). The Cross farm, 1,000 acres of rich, debt-free Iowa land, has been in the family for three generations, and aging patriarch Larry...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Proof that Hollywood no longer knows how to make that former staple, the women's picture, this unsuccessful weeper chronicles the dissolution of a family farm through the eyes of dutiful eldest daughter Ginny (Jessica Lange).

The Cross farm, 1,000 acres of rich, debt-free Iowa land, has been in the family for three generations, and aging patriarch Larry (Jason Robards) lords over land and relatives like a homespun feudal aristocrat. But his impetuous decision to retire and parcel out the property to daughters Ginny,

Rose (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Caroline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) stirs up festering resentments, brings family skeletons clattering out of the closet and taints the lives of all involved. You can see why Pfeiffer and Lange optioned Jane Smiley's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel: Juicy roles like Ginny

and Rose are in shamefully short supply these days. But Laura Jones' screenplay preserves the novel's weaknesses, particularly the underdevelopment of the supporting characters, notably youngest sister Caroline, while abandoning some of its strengths. The loss of the richly detailed texture that

keeps its tabloid-TV elements --- incest! cancer! miscarriage! toxic water! wife beating! adultery! -- from becoming a shallow, overwhelming litany of hot-button miseries is especially unfortunate. Lange and Pfeiffer, dressed down in authentically dowdy farmer's wife duds, act their hearts out.

But there isn't enough emoting in the world to smooth over the film's choppy storytelling (director Jocelyn Moorhouse and Disney reportedly clashed) and overly explicit dialogue that too often seems to be filling in for missing scenes.

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