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The Trip To Bountiful
cast: Geraldine Page, Rebecca De Mornay, John Heard, Carlin Glynn, and Richard Bradford

director: Peter Masterson

108 minutes (U) 1985 widescreen ratio 16:9
Fremantle / Arrow DVD Region 2 rental / retail

RATING: 10/10
reviewed by Emily Webb
Carrie Watts is living the twilight of her life trapped in an apartment in 1940s' Houston, Texas with a controlling daughter-in-law and a hen-pecked son. Her wish is to revisit Bountiful, the small Texas town of her youth, one last time. Escaping from the stifling apartment, Carrie catches a bus to Bountiful, where she meets and strikes up a conversation with a young woman (Rebecca De Mornay) to whom she recounts the story of her life...

This film is beautifully simple. This film adaptation of the teleplay written by Horton Foote 50 years ago stars the brilliant actress Geraldine Page who was rewarded for her turn as Carrie Watts with a best actress Oscar in 1985. Sadly, she died in 1987 of a heart attack. John Heard (Beaches, Home Alone) is understated and restrained as Carrie's son Ludie, confused by his role as a man and trying to play peacemaker between his mother and his shrill, shallow wife Jessie Mae (Carlin Glynn).

On the surface, there doesn't appear to be much to the story of Carrie Watts and her trip to Bountiful. However, The Trip To Bountiful is rich in subtext. The real story is in what is unsaid and in the expressions and nuances of the characters, especially Page and Heard. In fact, it is Heard's performance as Ludie that entranced me the most. His disappointment with life is subtly unearthed when he goes to Bountiful to retrieve his mother. "I try so hard," he comments to his mother as they survey the dilapidated home with his long repressed memories coming to the surface and the reality of his childless marriage to Jessie Mae, confronted.

The central theme of this piece is the desperate search to recapture a past in a place that is no longer there. You can feel Carrie's desperation to feel dirt in her hands again ("I worked that land like a man") and share in her girlish delight as she looks out the bus window at the scenery of her 'home'. The Trip To Bountiful has obviously struck a deep chord with many; there has never been a time that the play has not been performed somewhere in America since it was taken to the stage after the successful television broadcast with Lillian Gish in the lead role of Carrie.

It is a shame that John Heard's resume has not followed the quality of this film. It is just not right that he is best remembered for playing the dad in the first two Home Alone films when he has appeared in such a gem like this. Rebecca De Mornay is also an actress whose star has never been as big as it could have been. De Mornay, in her early twenties in this film, is luminous and, like her contemporaries Debra Winger and Sean Young, has never been embraced by Hollywood as many lesser actresses have.

DVD extras: Return To Bountiful: The History Of The Trip To Bountiful, a featurette containing interviews with the writer, director, cast and crew. This is a fascinating insight into the origins of the play and its journey from stage to screen.
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