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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Martha Coolidge
Artisan Entertainment 09/01 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R - sensuality
Read a teaching scene about love.
This engaging drama is set in the year 1935 in the small town of Glenville, Georgia. Nineteen-year-old Rose (Laura Dern) arrives at the Hillyer house to take care of 13-year-old Buddy (Lukas Haas) and his younger brother and sister. "You are as graceful as the capital letter S," Mr. Hillyer (Robert Duvall) tells her. "You will adorn our house. You will give a glow and a shine to these old walls."
After she's there a while, Rose discovers her best ally is Mrs. Hillyer (Diane Ladd). The older woman is, like Rose, an orphan. She seems to intuitively understand Rose's need for attention and her yearning to find "Mr. Right." Only trouble is, Rose doesn't know how to express her emotions appropriately.
She shocks Mr. Hillyer one day by declaring her love for him. He resists her advances, but Buddy and his young sister see it all. They are fascinated. Later, the distraught Rose turns to the teenager for consolation. He provides it freely in exchange for the chance to satisfy his curiosity about female anatomy.
Mr. Hillyer grows increasingly obsessed with Rose's new boyfriends. When she goes to the hospital first for pneumonia and then for removal of an ovarian cyst, Rose falls under the influence of Dr. Martinson (Kevin Conway). He suggests radical surgery to cure Rose of her "uncontrollable sexual impulses," and Mr. Hillyer agrees.
But Mrs. Hillyer will have none of this. "Are you human beings or are you some kind of male monsters?" she asks angrily. "Is there no limit to which you won't go to keep your illusions about yourselves?" The problem is not Rose; the problem is the way men see and misinterpret her. At one point Rose lets Buddy in on the secret: it's not sex women want; it's love.
In a screenplay filled with poetic flourishes and key insights into the mystery of the human personality, Calder Willingham (The Graduate, Little Big Man) probes the mixture of fear and awe that men experience when they meet the life-force of women. The drama shows just how far two men will go to put an end to what they see as one woman's unrestrained sexuality. Director Martha Coolidge draws out wonderful performances from her female stars, Laura Dern and Diane Ladd, who were both nominated for Academy Awards.
Rose finally finds "Mr. Right" and moves out of the Hillyers' house but not out of their lives. Years later when Buddy (John Heard) returns to visit his father, it's clear that her rambling spirit has had an indelible impact.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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