A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries

Bomb Rating: 

This is one of those typical Merchant-Ivory productions during which the frequency of my own escapist, suicidal thoughts came at a much faster clip than anything resembling action in the movie. At one point, I thought about digging my fingernails deep into my scalp, right about where my hairline and forehead converge, and ripping my own face off. During one particularly agonizing stretch of character development, I opted for my signature move: a brilliant flip off the back of my theater chair -- one somersault, two-and-a-half twists -- followed by a scream of "Die Merchant-Ivory!" just before my skull slammed into the concrete floor and I drifted into the sweet embrace of unconsciousness.

This film is about one extremely odd family during the 1960s and '70s and is based on Kaylie Jones' novel (Kaylie is the daughter of author James Jones). There are autobiographical elements to be found in the film's family: Writer Bill Willis (Kris Kristofferson) and wife Marcella (Barbara Hershey) adopt a French boy while living in Paris, whom they name Billy (Jesse Bradford), to add to their family which already includes daughter Channe (Leelee Sobieski). Eventually, Bill gets sick of the Eiffel Tower, the rude waiters, and being forced to use overripe brie as underarm deodorant, and moves the family moves back to civilization (i.e. the United States).

Director James Ivory is so interested in the minutiae of everyday life that it's only a matter of time before he films his next feature through a microscope jammed up somebody's ass. Watching these people go through the routine machinations of living, you just want to pull your hair out. It simply could not be more boring.

Ivory breaks the movie into parts, which adds a lovely touch of incoherence to the boredom. First, the story is told from Billy's point-of-view, then when the family goes back to America, Channe suddenly becomes the main character. One minute Billy is a vibrant child; the next, he's a couch potato. One minute Channe is a cute, little girl; the next, she's the school slut. The fact that Bill is a writer, and a dying one at that, is supposed to excuse the fact that the movie circles around the mundane like a vulture around the carcass of a rotting animal. For my $7, however, I like to see something on the screen other than excuses.

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