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carried away

Carried Away

Starring Dennis Hopper, Amy Irving, Amy Locane,
Hal Holbrook, Julie Harris and Gary Busey

Screenplay by Ed Jones
Based upon the novel Farmer by Jim Harrison
Directed by Bruno Barreto

As always, Cranky makes no comparison between the film and the source material.

This film stars Dennis Hopper. Now ignore what you're thinking. Hopper plays Joseph Svenden, a part-time (?) farmer and full-time teacher who, despite a comfortable and long running affair, becomes involved with one of his students. This role is a major surprise, indeed a step forward for Dennis Hopper, who has had a long and substantial career playing lunatics and/or villains in movies such as Speed, Waterworld and Blue Velvet. And he has a longer and just as substantial career in movies and television dating all the way back to Easy Rider and Rebel Without a Cause.

The change from nut to normal guy alone could doom this thing to art house hell, which would be a terrible thing. Carried Away is a romance from the male point of view, and as I've written before, Cranky hates romances.

Not this one.

Down to basics then. If you're a teen and still wet behind the ears in the ways of romance, you will probably be bored silly -- unless you're one of the guys who watch TV's Melrose Place, in which case you get to see Amy Locane naked -- a lot. More to the point, Carried Away is a simple, well written piece with characters not all that different from people we may have met in real life. And for those of us with a bunch of relationships under the bridge, it is like a punch in the gut. Bear with me...

At age 47, Joseph has lived his entire life in a small Midwestern farm town. Partially disabled as a child, his foot mashed by a tractor, he saw the great (and perhaps only) love of his life, Rosealee (Amy Irving), marry his best friend. The friend is killed in the Korean War. The relationship is rekindled. But Joseph's mother is slowly dying of stomach cancer, and he must care for her. Despite the willingness of Rosealee to commit to another marriage, Joseph cannot commit and will not propose. So she has waits -- six long years.

It's a comfortable relationship, as they work together in the two room schoolhouse. Enter the drop-dead gorgeous, incredibly flirtatious, 17-year-old Catherine Wheeler (Locane), who seduces the more-than-willing Joseph and, it is more than implied, takes him places sexually that his affair with Rosealee hasn't.

And, of course, word will get out. And, of course, the "real" relationship will be tested.

I live in the big city, New York City, and I personally know characters EXACTLY like this (less 20 years, of course). The woman who waits. The man who can't commit. We all want things we never think we're going to have. And when we get them, more often than not, we can't keep them. The older you get the more you know that. So you either try to keep things interesting, or you sit and let life pass you by. Which is what the characters in this movie face. The roles are small. The story is small. The actors get to act, and they all do a damned fine job.

Cranky loves watching good actors work.

If you see a lot of movies, like me, you'll think you've got the endgame all figured out, but director Bruno Barreto's work is dead on true to life. No lie. There's an interesting subplot about hunting coyotes, symbolically representing the ... nah, it's clear and to the point. The brilliance of the screenplay, by Ed Jones and Dale Herd, is that what seems obvious the first time around is revealed to work on a completely unexpected emotional level.

Yeah, it sounds like Cranky is spouting gibberish. See it and understand.

In the supporting cast, Hal Holbrook plays the local doctor and Joseph's confidant. Julie Harris is Joseph's mother. Gary Busey is Catherine's father, an ex-military man and dead-on shot. All are first rate. All deliver performances which build the story. If you watch carefully, you cannot help but be sucked in. It's a bit of work on your part, but it's worth the effort.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Carried Away, he would have paid . . .

$7.00

The only negatives fall on the soundtrack side, with song selections that do nothing but confuse the time period of the film. It's never specified, but I'd guess we're supposed to be looking at 1962/63 or so. The "rock" music played doesn't match the time frame. It's a small thing, but Cranky was in that biz and he notices this stuff.

amazon Click to buy films starring Dennis Hopper
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Click to buy films by Bruno Barreto

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.