User Reviews (12)

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  • Barbara Hershey gives a great performance as the deeply repressed backwoods woman -- it could have been caricature work, but it's passionate, dedicated and determined yet restrained. Her character is so dedicated to code and rigid beliefs that after a while we surprise ourselves by starting to wonder if there's some truth, or sense, or admirable strength, to her punishing way of living.

    The city woman, played by Jill Clayburgh, is our way into the story, and yet she is depicted as somewhat silly and sheltered; her modern, idealistic comments and questions get across thoughts we agree with, and yet they aren't intended as powerful speeches, so our balance of skepticism and interest in Hershey is retained.

    "Shy People" is full of powerful melodrama, strange and specific characters, striking settings, extreme dramatic implications and turning points. The material penetrates the mind and refuses to settle down in the form of cosy conclusions. An oddly powerful movie.
  • I agree with the previous poster that Shy People has definitely fallen through the cracks. It is haunting, and sometimes even a bit hard to watch. However the performances by Jill Clayburgh, Barbara Hershey and the supporting cast are awesome. Ever been to the bayou? I spent two years in Lousiana and explored the landscape every chance I got. I have to say that this film probably captures that life better than any I've ever seen. The clash between that isolated world, seemingly cut off from the rest of society, and that of Jill Clayburgh's classy New York existence is fascinating. On the surface, these two families have absolutely nothing in common, and yet, they somehow have a profound affect on one another. Since this film isn't on DVD, it can be hard to find. However if you do, don't miss it. It's one that tends to stay with you for a while afterward which seems to rarely happen these days.
  • Barbara Hershey won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance in Andrei Konchalovsky's "Shy People". The movie portrays a magazine writer (Jill Clayburgh) and her daughter (Martha Plimpton) taking a trip to the Louisiana boondocks to meet a distant relative (Hershey). As the movie progresses, we learn not only about the relative's various kinds of superstitions, but also about the secrets that the great uncle held, and how they relate to some current rifts in the family.

    Probably the movie's best aspect is how it dignifies country people. While making it clear that these folks have some backwards notions about things - namely that the deceased man is still watching - Konchalovsky never makes them look stupid. Also, we get to see rural Louisiana (although it may have changed in the past twenty years, especially after Hurricane Katrina).

    If anything mildly disappointed me about the movie, it's that I didn't get to hear more about Cajun culture. But then again, it's probably best that the movie didn't lose its main focus. I would suspect that the one boy was right when he accused the oil companies.

    All in all, worth seeing.
  • This film seems at first pretentious and then very thoughtful.

    It begins as a shallow magazine photographer and her daughter travel deep into the Bayou to research their family history. As they meet and establish relationships with their cousins, the story evolves into a truly haunting display of modern life vs. isolation, and the ways in which people relate to each other. Barbara Hershey is especially excellent as a tough but deeply loving widow.
  • Beautiful photography of the Louisiana bayou and excellent performances by Barbara Hershey and the rest of the cast make for a gripping drama. Criticised by some for being melodramatic, this film is more than a comparison of the city and country life. It is also surely an analogy by director Konchalovsky for the Soviet Union progressing through harsh but effective tyranny to a more uncertain and questionable "freedom".
  • The film evoking Bunuel's Tristana for its unconditional love of characters, embracing all their qualities as they are without judgment. It's a film about mystery of love, the heart, mind and soul colluding with the rationalization of the mind, or more precisely the mystery of the spirit vs the rationalization of an ego, represented by two different worlds and people coming together, learning from one another and becoming all the more whole at the end. A mystical lyrical film that is more about the meaningful poetry of images rather than the story, Andrei Konchalovsky's cinema always seemed to me reminiscent particularly of Dostojevsky's work of literature, focusing on the human soul, works like The Idiot can come to mind often, such an exploration in this film is beautiful and marvelous, unique in a way that has no comparison in the history of cinema. As a film it does remind me of his other memorable works (House Of Fools, Nest For The Gentry or The Postman's White Nights). Konchalovsky has once said that "Cinema is ruthless because it's too specific, the task of the director in the cinema is to leave space for imagination."

    For me Shy People is perfect example how to do a film that has no clear message, it leaves it up to an audience to find them for themselves, to find connections, to see what their heart, mind and soul guide them to see and feel.
  • This is one of my favorite movies. Barbara Hershey is awesome. The portrayal of the bayou is very realistic, claustrophobic, eerie, and downright real. It's kind of a feminine Deliverance. I'm glad I saw this when it came out as it is hard to find now--not on DVD. Definitely worth it. Should have been up for a few Oscars. Why can't it be out on DVD? This is an important film also in that it shows there is more drama to the swamp as landscape that one would think with all the swamp creature movies out there. Yes, there really are creatures in the swamp, but there are also people, just like us. The brothers are also great and the cinematography is stupendous.
  • It's hard to even put one's finger on what Konchalovskiy actually thought he was doing because as a whole the film doesn't hold together and looks rather fragmented. Maybe he wanted to do a horror flick or he didn't even have a coherent concept but just went shooting and hoping that something will come out of it?

    The script has distinctive feeling of an old school Russian theatrical play - too much pathos and sharp separations between formal acts. That damages the flow and makes it look too verbal and melodramatic (which does work for live theater), as if it was used because they (3 writers) didn't have enough ideas for a smooth flow. Also a retard son was a cliché without any purpose or history.

    The cast was very uneven in quality and makes me think that maybe Konchalovskiy run out of ideas on what do do with actors. Barbara Hershey has done a great job but the character is still monotone and that's a direction flaw (she has done enough very different characters to be able to portray a character transition). Martha Plimpton did well as Grace but it looks like she was left to her own devices and she needed directional help to go from "well" to "great". Jill Clayburgh was abysmal, ruined half of the flick and made me think how would Meryl Strip or Glenn Close make that role fly sky high.

    Cinematography was way to much of a Chris Menges showing off and not thinking about the whole. In some scenes it looks so artificial that it make you snap out of the flow. Also it's way too much of a flat gray and lacking a range which is a trap that indulgent cinematographers sometimes fall into. Whatever he saw as gradations of gray on the set is lost even on celluloid and turns into a smudge in digital.

    Portraying eerie requires enough contrast for the audience at large to see visual structure instead of a flat surface. Some thinking and effort to transition from say lush green to foggy to rainy to "vapor above a water" and some testing to check what is realistically discernible on screen with the tech at hand.
  • Overwrought exercise in culture-clash, though worth-seeing for Chris Menges' distinguished, sometimes showoff-y cinematography and for Barbara Hershey's gritty portrayal of a backwoods matriarch living with her clan in the bayous of Louisiana. New York journalist Jill Clayburgh, researching her family origins, takes hell-raising daughter Martha Plimpton with her down South, meeting cousins they never knew about--and a way of life far removed from their own. Co-written by Gérard Brach, Marjorie David, and director Andrei Konchalovsky, the film has bravura individual moments, bits and pieces which fail to parlay into a strong, cohesive whole. Nevertheless, an interesting shot at something different, although the usually-strong Clayburgh never gets her chance at a good scene. ** from ****
  • This is standard hokum that pits a couple of city folk vs. some backwoods bayou dwellers.This film reminded me alot of "American Gothic",except this isn't supposed to be a horror film.Mare Winningham and Pruitt Taylor Vince have alot of fun portraying a couple of the hillbillies,and are the best part of the film.Jill Clayburgh turns in another in a string of lousy performances.Every performance she gives just seems to have a "TV movie" aura to it.There's also some great cinematography,which makes the film more interesting to watch than it deserves.
  • gridoon25 December 2000
    Well-photographed but purposeless film moves at a snail's pace and only occasionally manages to be compelling. Barbara Hershey convincingly changes her image but Jill Clayburgh is rather flat. The fresh-faced, talented Martha Plimpton, as Clayburgh's restless daughter, is by far the best thing in this film. (**)
  • Barbara Hershey was incredible as usual. This film will stay with you well after its over.