Rich in Love
1993 Directed by Bruce Beresford. Starring Albert Finney, Jill Clayburgh, Kathryn Erbe, Kyle Mclachlan, Suzy Amis, Piper Laurie, Ethan Hawke, Alfre Woodard.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 26, 1993
The team who brought us Driving Miss Daisy is now driving its brand of Southern sentimental hogwash into the ground. Producers Richard and Lili Zanuck, writer Alfred Uhry (who won an Oscar for his Miss Daisy script) and transplanted Australian director Beresford all reunite here to create a spunky slice of South Carolina life. Last time out, their team effort won a Best Picture Oscar. No chance of that this time. They should count themselves lucky if this thing sinks without a trace -- which, considering the long time between its completion and release, it almost did. The story is told from the perspective of high school senior Lucille Odom (Erbe) who arrives home from class one day to find a note from her mother declaring that she's left to start a new life. That non-event adds the dramatic flair that Lucille feels her life to be lacking. As the story unfolds throughout the course of a lusciously dappled Charleston summer, Lucille sagely observes the emotional swirl that surrounds her. And there's much about which to be sage-like. Retired dad (Finney) adapts to his disorientation by remaining in his pajamas and eating junk food. Beautiful older sister Rae (Amis) comes home married and pregnant and, unsure of her desire for either husband or child, rejoins her old household. Would-be boyfriend Wayne (Hawke) is driven to distraction trying to figure out what makes Lucille tick. New brother-in-law Billy McQueen (McLachlan) suffers from a sort of Woody Allenish judgment lapse regarding sex and youthful near-kin. Then Dad rises from his torpor (rather quickly, some might say) and begins dating his vixenish hairdresser Vera Delmage (Laurie). And somewhere close to the end of this story, the Unmarried Woman herself (Clayburgh) re-emerges from her self-imposed exile to impart some wisdom about the life cycles of families, their permutations, detours and regenerations. Also skirting the periphery of Lucille's story is wise friend of the family Rhody (Woodard) who knows the Odoms better than they know themselves. These various strands are all but wisps of storyline, insubstantial by themselves and even less significant as a whole. And when they all come together at the end, the sense of closure is artificial at best. As the narrator, Erbe's Lucille doesn't have the depth to carry this Southern melodrama. She's a mere shadow of similar characters like Frankie in A Member of the Wedding or Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. Others about her shine, however. Finney is marvelous as always, Laurie conveys an amusing charm, Amis is both beautiful and poignant and Woodard -- well, any movie with Woodard can't be all bad, even if it's in a role of slight substance. Rich in Love's view of the South is a cornpone sonata where the people are colorful and cheerful and white girls can belt out blues standards in all-black roadhouses. Rich in Love is anything but rich.