4 September 2011 | BERSERKERpoetry
I won't ride with the dead.
There are several very good points to "O Pioneers!" that are partially drowned under miscasting and stilted dialogue. Heather Graham (who plays the younger version of Jessica Lange's character) is the worst of the lot. Even the more talented actors sometimes struggle to get the words out. There are far too many cases throughout where unnecessarily complicated lines are forced to be delivered in a way that is anything but natural. It's too bad that this is the only major flaw, because the constant re-occurrence of the issue is the only thing that keeps "O Pioneers!" from being a great film.
Jessica Lange is certainly the best thing here. The emotion and power with which she imbues her character is palpable. David Strathairn, who is one of my favorite actors, is given much less to work with. He tries his best, but the character is written too coldly to truly come to life. The absolute stand-out performance, however, is that of Tom Aldredge. His depiction of Ivar is amusing, alive, deep and absolutely human. Most of the other actors live up to standard, save for the aforementioned dialogue issues.
Glenn Jordan directs quite nicely, but it's less his sensibility than the eye of cinematographer Dick Bush that makes "O Pioneers!" so visually appealing. Bush captures a washed-out world of warm-pale greens, blues, and sepia tones that fill you with a sense of longing and overwhelming calm. This film has something in common both visually and thematically with Jordan's film of the previous year, "Sarah, Plain and Tall". That movie is ultimately more consistent and satisfying that this one. I couldn't say there's any reason for me to watch "O Pioneers!" a second time, but it was a meaningful experience in spite of the flaws. It has much to say about contentment and the search for home. You should gain something from it.