A patriarch (Robards) announces that he means to divide his land between his three daughters, but when one of them, the most beloved (Leigh), tries to dissuade him, he sends her packing. Jane Smiley's novel earned points for chutzpah, but Jocelyn Moorhouse's adaptation makes heavy weather of this latter-day King Lear. Despite the leisurely Waltons-style voice-over, Larry Cook and his kin don't convince as a Midwestern farming dynasty, while the film itself has only a picturesque sense of the land. It makes for rocky terrain on which to base the ensuing melodramatics. Breast cancer, infertility, adultery, wife beating - it seems as if someone's ticking off a list of female 'issues'. If only Laura Jones' screenplay had allowed the characters more respite, a time to draw breath between calamities, the fine performances from Pfeiffer and Lange (as the older daughters) might just have made it stick. Robards' senile paterfamilias is, regrettably, a grave embarrassment.
Cast and crew
Jennifer Jason Leigh