Archive for You’re a really good driver Meryl

OUT OF AFRICA (1985)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2015 by cdascher

out of africaFirst off, let me say there is no scene in this movie where Robert Redford teaches Meryl Streep how to drive, nor are there any scenes with people stuck in traffic. In fact, I don’t recall anyone uttering the titular line in the entire movie, although if Meryl Streep said it, I may have missed it through her impenetrable accent.

Chronologically speaking, this picks up shortly after our last movie, in 1913.  It  is the adaptation of Karen Blixen’s memoirs, with Meryl Streep portraying the author. From a wealthy Danish family, she marries a Baron (Klaus Maria Brandauer) and they move to colonial Kenya to establish a coffee plantation. After the marriage proves an unhappy pairing, Karen finds her real love is for charming rover Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford). As she runs her plantation over the years, she interacts with the British colonial society as well as the native Kikuyu population. She lives through ordeals like the hardship of wartime and the unfortunate effects of her husband’s infidelity, but also experiences adventures with Denys and sees the beauty of the land.

My mother told me this was one of her favorite movies, so I was definitely interested to see it. I felt the same way when she told me Jane Eyre was her favorite novel – compelled to read it out of a deep and abiding love for my mom. Both are great works and worthy of exploration, but both also moved at quite a languid pace for my liking. In fact, it took me over eight years to complete Jane Eyre – even though I thought it a worthwhile story. Thankfully, it didn’t take me as long to watch Out of Africa.

Languid indeed. When we had finished this film, Mouse asked me how many years I thought the story had spanned. It was hard for me to gauge. I deeply admired Streep’s character – she has a good moral compass and seems to want to do the right thing, but was hampered greatly by the roles women could play in society at the time. Her pride motivates her to act in a number of ways that don’t serve her – in large part, to enter a marriage of convenience without love in which she experiences betrayal and humiliation more than once. It is more important to her to be married as a person of society than to be happy. Despite its origins as a marriage in name only, she and her husband do develop a physical relationship – perhaps due to proximity so far away from their native Denmark in Africa. Her philandering husband eventually gives her syphilis, and she is forced to go back to Europe for treatment. Thankfully, she is okay, but she because of this she learns she will never be able to have children. The realization seems to hit her quite acutely and quite painfully, and she throws herself squarely into her work on the farm to try to get a strong coffee crop going and for sale – something she is learning about as she goes. Continue reading

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