Blu-ray Review: Places in the Heart - Twilight Time Limited Edition

By , Contributor
Places in the Heart is a heartfelt drama, originally released to theaters in 1984, with a impressive cast. Sally Field's Oscar speech for her role as Depression Era widow Edna Spalding has become the stuff of legend ("...you like me, right now you like me!"). While Field was rewarded for her leading role, both John Malkovich and Lindsay Crouse were recognized with Best Supporting nominations. Among the film's other four nominations (including Best Picture) was a win for Robert Benton's original screenplay. That's a rather curious honor, considering how unfocused the screenplay is in places. Twilight Time has added the film to their roster of limited edition (3,000 copies) Blu-ray releases.

After a jarring, random act of violence claims the life of her husband, Edna is left with a couple of young kids to raise and very little practical skills. A chance encounter with a man named Moze (Danny Glover), leads to Edna's decision to become a cotton farmer. Because Moze is black and this is 1930s Texas, her decision to partner with him is met with all sorts of unfavorable reactions. On top of it, the bank is highly skeptical of her ability to make payments on her house. As Edna becomes an unlikely cotton farmer, she takes in an irritable, blind boarder named Mr. Will (Malkovich).

All of this plays out fairly predictably, truth be told. Heartstrings are firmly tugged and everyone involved hits the right emotional beats. That Malkovich and Crouse (who does fine with relatively limited screen time as Edna's sister) were Oscar-nominated and Glover was not says a lot less about the quality of the performances and more about race-based voter bias at that particular time in the '80s. In fact, Glover turns in arguably the best performance here.

Overall, writer-director Benton seems intent on doing everything possible to retain a firm grip on viewer sympathy. Where he goes dreadfully, nearly unforgivably, wrong is with an utterly tangential subplot involving the philandering Wayne Lomax (Ed Harris) and his mistress. Calling this intrusion "out of left field" is an understatement as it never merges with the main story in any meaningful way. Otherwise, Places in the Heart is an acceptably watchable soaper (if you can also ignore the hoaky, fantasy-based, tritely "symbolic" final scene).

Néstor Almendros' stark, no-frills cinematography looks absolutely flawless on this recent high definition reissue of Places in the Heart. This is a really nice presentation that should almost certainly please fans who've been waiting for this film to surface on Blu-ray. More subtly impressive is the DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack. It's perfectly serviceable and crystal clear, there just isn't a whole lot going on in this quiet film's sound design of which to make particular note.

The big feature here is the new commentary track featuring Sally Field and film historian Nick Redman. It's great to hear the actress recollect all kind of tidbits about her Oscar-winning performance and the film in general. John Kander's score is offered up as an isolated track (a hallmark of Twilight Time releases). Julie Kirgo contributes a newly-penned essay (another hallmark of TT titles).

Remember, Places in the Heart is a limited edition and only 3,000 copies were issued. When they're gone, they're gone. For ordering information, visit the official Twilight Time distributor Screen Archives.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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