The River | Chicago Reader

The River

Are there more farmer movies now than farmers? Sissy Spacek and Mel Gibson are the noble tillers of the soil in this one (1984); the forces of renegade capitalism are represented by Scott Glenn, as the head of an agribusiness conglomerate who wants to drive our heroes off their land. Director Mark Rydell shovels on the lyricism and pathos, but it's all so feebly filmed and sententiously scripted that you'll be rooting for Glenn before the picture is halfway over. In the absence of any real dramatic development, Rydell inflates a chain of minor incidents into towering tragedies; his habit of overstatement catches up with him at the climax, when he has no fireworks left for his staging of the obligatory populist revolt scene. Vilmos Zsigmond shot this, goggling as if he'd never seen a sunset before; the supporting cast includes a cow ungenerously named Jessica, presumably an allusion to the star of a competing project.


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