The Trip to Bountiful (1985) (PG)

















I had only one reason for watching "The Trip to Bountiful"—to find out what was so great about the performance that beat out Whoopi Goldberg for Best Actress for "The Color Purple" at the 1986 Academy Awards. I was convinced that there was no possible way anyone could top Goldberg's stunning performance, but after seeing "The Trip to Bountiful" I see why the Oscar was given elsewhere.
Miss Watts lives with her son, Ludie, and his wife, Jessie Mae. She gets along for the most part, but she likes to do things her way and she doesn't adhere to her daughter-in-law's whims. Jessie Mae is a proud lady, she's the character that we're supposed to hate, and it's really easy to hate her.
Ludie and Jessie Mae are under financial pressure, Ludie was sick for two years and is just recently getting back into working. After being at his job for six months he wants to ask for a raise. Jessie Mae is just plain selfish. Instead of congratulating her husband for getting back on his feet and gaining momentum in the work, she sees more opportunities to go to the movies.
Miss Watts is stuck in the house all day with Jessie Mae. Old Miss Watts has a heart condition and she needs to be with her son. They fear leaving her alone for more than a few hours so she is confined to their apartment with a daughter-in-law who is overbearing.
But Miss Watts would like one thing—to see her hometown of Bountiful once more before she dies.
And so when the opportunity is given to her, she sneaks out of the house and sets off on an adventure to see Bountiful once more.
Ludie and Jessie Mae scramble to find her but she has taken long pains to ensure that they won't catch her this time.
Bountiful is no longer on the map. It's run down and forgotten, a town that once was the center of a bustling community is now overrun and desolate. But whether or not there's anything left of it, Miss Watts is determined.
Along the trip she bonds with a young woman named Thelma and the two share a number of intimate moments. Although the chemistry between them is instantaneous and quick, it doesn't feel fake.
There's something magical about this movie that makes you forget that there was ever a camera involved.
It's based on Horton Foote's play and taking that to screen is a real challenge. You don't want to loose to personality of the play, and it isn't lost.
Geraldine Page plays Miss Watts and it is a grand performance indeed. She's everything that this role demands at exactly the time that it's needed. One of the best moments is when she's so overcome with the joy of being close to her home town that she bursts out in hymn. As she's singing tears start rolling down her face, but she's too bent on getting home to notice. It's a really great performance.
The picture itself is good as well. There are a few moments when the acting of the others is over exaggerated and a few quick cuts detract from the films sentimentality but all-in-all I liked it much more than I thought I would.
It's not a perfect movie but it stands on its own feet in a solid way.
I'm not sure that I would say that Page's performance is better that Goldberg's; but then again I have a soft spot for "The Color Purple". But I can see why the Oscar was given to Page and I don't begrudge her that.


Score: 3 stars out of 4

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