Out of Africa
Director: Sydney Pollack
Starring: Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Klaus Maria Brandauer
I have to once again reiterate my detestation of epics. They are just not what I want when I watch a movie. I like small stories. Epics are never small – it’s the definition of “epic.”
I was kind of dreading watching Out of Africa, given that I knew it was a romance, had grand vista shots of Africa, and was 2 hours and 41 minutes long. In short, all the classic ingredients of a long, tedious waste of my time.
Unfortunately, the movie did not prove me wrong.
Karen (Streep) proposes a marriage of convenience with a friend of hers, Bror (Brandauer). He accepts and they move to Africa, where he promptly starts treating theirs as a marriage of convenience. She gets inconceivably huffy about this, and decides to “take pity” on the natives working their coffee plantation by throwing herself into their lives and the plantation itself. World War I happens, other stuff happens, she meets Denys (Redford), other boring stuff happens, she meets Denys again, other random stuff happens, she falls in love with Denys, and then, y’know, epics end how all epics end. Two hours and forty one minutes later, I breathe a sigh of relief and hit eject on the DVD player. Yes, that’s part of the plot.
My central problem with this specific epic is the character of Karen. For about eighty percent of the film, she’s a whiny, needy, drama-craving female. I’m sorry, but when you propose a marriage of convenience to a friend of yours, and then he turns elsewhere for sexual gratification, you have absolutely no right to be angry. Bitch, what were you expecting? YOU were the one who proposed marriage. And then, later, when Karen falls for Denys, she has this big “relationship talk” with him where she completely demands – DEMANDS – more than he has made it perfectly clear he is able to give, and she gets all pissy when he walks away. Again, bitch, what were you expecting? I have no sympathy for women who get all clingy with their men and then SHOCKER, the men don’t like it. Why? I’m not a clingy person. I like my alone time, I NEED my alone time (I recently realized I’m part introvert), and I was lucky enough to find someone in my life who understands that about me. My husband, bless him, never questions me when I spend time by myself. He’s introverted too. Furthermore, I get very angry when I watch “The Real Housewives” and you have all these women creating mountains out of mole hills, and I get angrier when an extrovert doesn’t understand an introvert. At its heart, I think that’s really the central issue bothering me about Karen’s lack of understanding of Denys. She’s making mountains out of mole hills and she’s not making an attempt to understand Denys. You have to let an introvert just be. Understand them, don’t try to change them. Push them too hard and they don’t respond well, and Denys is most certainly an introvert. I honestly cannot forgive her for their fireside argument. She is so childish, so petulant in her demands. Nothing else she did in the film can overcome that behavior for me.
Hi! I'm a whiny clingy female masquerading as a feminist. Have I fooled you yet?
Out of Africa is touted as a romance. It is categorized as a romance. Surprisingly to me, the romance at the heart of the film doesn’t even begin to simmer until past the one hour mark. I felt like I had to wait through all this random nonsense about moving to Africa and dealing with World War I and random illnesses until we “got down to business.” So be warned – if you’re watching Out of Africa because of its supposed epic love story, you’ll be doing a lot of waiting for it to start. And, somewhat sadly, a great deal of time is spent on the long (very very very long) buildup to the romance, then the demise of the romance, but precious little time is spent enjoying the actual romance.
All of which has made me realize something else about myself. I like my romances to end happily. I do not understand the enjoyment derived from watching a passionate love affair explode or fall apart or end with tragedy. Really, what’s the appeal? Call me sentimental (which I highly doubt you will, given my vocal distaste for sentimental films like this one), but I really like it when a couple finds a way to make things work or happily wind up together. I enjoy celebrating happy relationships, not weeping over tragic ones. That’s part of the reason I like my Jane Austen costume dramas as much as I do! Having said that, I do not understand the appeal of the relationship in Out of Africa. I feel like I’m missing some sort of classic female gene in that respect.
I looked this film up after I watched it to roll my eyes at all the awards it won. Best Picture – check. Best Director – check. Yes, sigh, I can absolutely understand that. This is classic Hollywood melodrama fare that always performs well during awards season. What really shocked me and disappointed me was the fact that this film won Best Score. I absolutely hated this score. It was completely derivative of 1950s lounge music (I kept expecting Frank Sinatra to start singing some lyric about a broad) with the violins actually emphasizing their glissandos in an incredibly cheese-tastic way. I cannot remember the last time I heard a film score I liked less, and this won the Oscar? Bleagh. Friends of mine who read this – please, PLEASE do not buy me the original soundtrack to Out of Africa, unless you want me to use it in some sort of voodoo ceremony to inflict you pain for giving me such a craptacular “gift.”
So why is this film in the book? Apart from those who actually enjoy epics, the cinematography is stunning. I have zero problems with this film winning that particular Oscar, as the vista shots of Africa are downright gorgeous, and they are well-represented in the film. Wow, but this is just beautiful landscape. It’s shot well, I’ll give it that. For my taste, you could edit out all that nonsensical relationship bull crap and just give me a montage of Kenya, and I’d enjoy it a lot more.
Yes, it is a very pretty film.
Ultimately, it comes down to a question of personal preference. This was not my type of movie to begin with, so are you shocked I don’t like it? I’m not. It’s long, it’s tedious, it has a main character I found singularly annoying, the “romance” was anything but satisfying, and the music was awful. But if you’re the type of person who really enjoys epics, don’t worry, I don’t judge you. I know that sounded sarcastic, but it wasn’t. I honestly don’t. I know that, personally, I hate them, but that’s just my taste. If you like them, hey, great, props to you, just don’t expect me to watch them with you. I’ll be in the next room with The Station Agent having a grand old time.
Oh, and I found Meryl Streep’s accent ridiculously annoying.
Arbitrary Rating: 5/10. The photography is the only good thing going for it in my book.