, 18 Mar 2007
Rose (Dern) comes to live with, and work for, the Hillyer family. She comes to think of Mother (Ladd; Dern's real life Mother) as a surrogate parent, falls in love with Daddy (Duvall) and is the object of Buddy's (Haas) first crush. Things really come to a head when Rose reveals she is pregnant.
It is a frequently made observation that roles for women can be desperately limited, if not in number then in scope. That being the case the part of the eponymous Rose must have been a tremendous gift for Laura Dern. She siezes it with both hands and gives this complex character real ife. Dern's Rose is a character of tremendous charm and subtle shadings; Rose may be simple but Dern is careful never to make her stupid. The performance garnered an Oscar nomination (in the frankly outstanding year in which Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon were up for Thelma and Louise and Jodies Foster won for Silence of the Lambs) but it is hardly the sole attraction of this very fine film.
Robert Duvall is his dependably excellent self as Daddy and it is to his credit that he finds the balance in his character, who could have come off as an ogre, and makes us like and respect him. Also Oscar nominated was Diane Ladd as Mother and she gives a performance of great strength and dignity, vital in the last act of the film.
Then 14 Lukas Haas again shows that he was one of a very few child actors who aren't monumentally annoying. His strong performance may be down to a real understanding of being a hormonal teenager or it may simply be that he WAS a hormonal teenager, but it works and he's a fine partner for Dern in their scenes together.
Martha Coolidge strikes a fine balance between the more sexual elements of the story and the sweetness of the tone of the film, never more so than in the film's outstanding scene where Rose asks if she can get in bed with Buddy and he uses this oppurtunity to get her to let him explore her body. This could be deeply unsavoury but the dialogue takes that out of it, making it about a curious boy and a desperate, confused girl and it ends up being a sweet scene in spite of itself.
The film also tiptoes between comedy and drama, but it's strongest when mixing the two, as with Dern's lovely line about being 'Only a human girl person'.
An excellent character piece, with terrific performances from all concerned, Rambling Rose is the kind of movie that they just don't make enough of.
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