Paradise Road Review

by Ben Hoffman (ben DOT hoffman AT bcsbbs DOT com)
April 15th, 1997

    A film review by Ben Hoffman
    Copyright 1997 Ben Hoffman

The fact that the film is based on a true story, the hardships visited on women prisoners by the Japanese in WWII, is about the only good reason to see the movie. For one thing, it comes across as a female version of the magnificent BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI. . . and suffers greatly in comparison.

Director Bruce Beresford, director of such outstanding films as BREAKER MORANT, DRIVING MISS DAISY, DON'S PARTY, TENDER MERCIES, CRIMES OF THE HEART, AND MISTER JOHNSON . . . all exceptional films, has faltered with PARADISE ROAD. It never really picks up speed being slow-moving almost from its inception.

Given a great cast with which to work, it is a pity that more could not have been done with them. For one thing, I suspect that Beresford wanted to give equal time to each of his stars and instead ended up with including each in an episode that did not fully mesh with the others.

The story, which seems not to be as well known as it should be, is of the tens of thousands of women (Australian, Europeans and Americans) who were captured in the Japanese steam-roller push through Asia. . When bombs started dropping in Singapore, many women embarked on a ship that should have brought them safely out of the war zone; instead they were captured and taken to Sumatra and imprisoned. How they endured their incarceration, with music and singing as a catalyst to help them endure, is the story'S essence.

Glenn Close stars as Adrienne Pargiter, the women's leader in the prison camp. Pauline Collins is the missionary Margaret Drummond, who along with Pargiter, stand up to their captors. Joanna Ter Steege is a nun, Sister Wilhelmina, Elizabeth Spriggs is Mrs. Roberts. Julianna Margulies has the role of Topsy Merrit, Jennifer Ehle as Rosemary, Cate Blanchette as Susan, and Fargo's own Frances McDormand is Dr. Verstak who fronts as the doctor to the sick and injured women. Sadly, McDormand's interpretation of her role did not live up to her splendid marshall's performance in FARGO that won her the Academy Award's Oscar for Best Actress in 1996. With a cast like that, we should have gotten a better film.

Directed by Bruce Beresford

2.5 Bytes

4 Bytes = Superb
3 Bytes = Too good to miss
2 Bytes = Average
1 Byte = Save your money

Ben Hoffman

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