Here we make a definite break as Kate wasn't a child actress at least not as far as TV or films were concerned. I've only just found out that she's not British either, having first spotted her in the BBC adaptation of Therese Racquin in 1980 and since assumed that she was one of ours who'd gone on to Hollywood.
Kate is actually Canadian and came to England as a 22-year old drama student in 1973. She made her film debut two years later.
1. The Romantic Englishwoman ( 1975 )
Kate's first film role was a small part in this domestic drama from veteran director Joseph Losey.
The titular character is Elizabeth ( Glenda Jackson ) , an upper middle class woman who takes a recuperative break in Baden-Baden from her successful novelist husband Lewis ( Michael Caine ) and young son. In her hotel she meets Thomas ( Helmut Berger ), posing as a poet but really a drug courier on the run from Swan ( Michel Lonsdale ). Thomas follows her to England where he lodges with the family as Lewis is determined to find out whether the two had an affair.
Knowing that Losey was responsible for at least two cinematic atrocities in Boom ! and The Assassination of Trotsky, I feared the worst but this one isn't too bad . It's a thoughtful examination of what happens when your circumstances are comfortable enough to allow time for boredom. Elizabeth has a French au pair, dishwasher, social life, regular sex ( in the garden ) , the works, but still hankers for a romantic adventure. Lewis who, from his accent and social behaviour, has worked his way into the lifestyle, is more grounded in everyday realities and is groping for an understanding of his wife's desire for liberty. From a slow start it gradually becomes more absorbing although it remains talky and short of action.
It's difficult to fully empathise with these privileged characters so it needed a good performance from Jackson to work and as usual she delivered. The grainy cinematography doesn't flatter her at all but that wouldn't bother a skilled actress. There are a couple of brief glimpses of her in the buff. Caine is alright but not too convincing when he loses his temper. Berger is a bit one-dimensional in his handsome stranger role and Lonsdale is hardly in it.
Kate's role too is small as a friend of the couple and is used to move the plot along in one of her three scenes. She's alright but looks a bit overweight.
2. Dracula ( 1979 )
Kate's next film part was the leading role in this re-telling of the Dracula story. It largely follows on from the successful Broadway production with the same leading man, Frank Langella.
It's reasonably close to Stoker, more so than the Hammer version at any rate. It moves the action a decade or two further on, largely so that Jonathan Harker can chase around in a vintage car. I think most people reading this will have a good idea of the plot already but for the record it goes like this. A ship runs aground off the coast of Whitby and the only survivor, a Rumanian aristocrat Count Dracula ( Langella ) is discovered by a sickly young girl , Mina van Helsing ( Jan Francis ) who is being cared for by her friend Lucy ( Kate ) and Lucy's father Dr Seward ( Donald Pleasence ). Lucy is engaged to Dracula's solicitor Harker ( Trevor Eve just before his career took off with Shoestring ). The starry cast is rounded off by Laurence Olivier as Mina's father who comes in when Dracula targets the two girls.
Director John Badham and Langella wanted to emphasise the romance in the story and take advantage of the actor's striking good looks. It certainly worked for my mum; when it was first shown on TV she had to leave the room halfway through it and told my sister it was because of the effect he was having on her. Kate and Frank actually play it very well as does Eve as the inadequate and peeved Harker. The film is correspondingly high on atmosphere and very low on sex and gore.
However it's achieved at the expense of a convincing narrative with plot holes, inadequate explanations and continuity errors galore. Why does Dracula kill all the sailors and thereby wreck the ship bringing him to England ? Renfield ( Tony Haygarth ) is already acting as Dracula's agent when the wreck is being salvaged so why does Dracula attack him ( as a very crappy-looking bat ) when he brings some of the cargo to the count's new home ? What's the source of van Helsing's knowledge of vampires ? Most glaringly, vampire Mina is dispatched twice as if alternative versions have both made it into the final cut. And how come her reflection appears in a puddle of water ? It's an effective shot in context but it contradicts information imparted elsewhere in the film
The acting is generally good although Olivier carries on using that indeterminate European accent from The Marathon Man and The Boys From Brazil . Larry was actually seriously ill while making the film so we shouldn't be too hard on him.
3. Mr Patman ( 1980 )
4. Eye Of The Needle ( 1981 )
Kate has pretty much the only female role in this taut WWII thriller based on a novel by Labour luvvie Ken Follett.
Henry Faver ( Donald Sutherland ) is a German spy operating in England. Unlike his roguish Irishman in The Eagle Has Landed , Sutherland's Faver is a single-minded and ruthless killer who eliminates everyone who stands in his way. Having discovered the Allied invasion plans Faver must make his way to a U-boat off the coast of Scotland with the police headed by Inspector Godliman ( Ian Bannen ) in hot pursuit. Faver steals an unseaworthy boat and crashes onto a small island where he is taken in by a young couple Lucy Rose ( Kate ) and her embittered husband ( Christopher Cazenove ) a pilot who lost both legs in a car crash on their wedding day. Lucy and Faver become involved.
Eye of the Needle is a good yarn well told, with excellent location work on the island of Mull and top quality acting. It moves at the right pace with regular injections of tension and violence including cinema's most unequal fight. There are some mistakes; Kate's waterproof jacket, Cazenove's jeep and Bannen's helicopter are all anachronisms and the climax switches from pitch black night to broad daylight with no dawn in between. Richard Marquand got to direct Return of the Jedi largely on the strength of this film.
Kate gives a superb performance with emotional depth as the lonely guilt-ridden housewife who then has to become a resourceful action heroine. It's surprising she didn't become a bigger star after this. I haven't seen all Kate's films at the time of writing but it seems quite likely that this is the only one where she flashes some flesh with a couple of topless scenes.
Sutherland, Cazenove and Bannen are all excellent too and is usually mentioned there's the briefest of appearances ( almost an extra ) by the young Rik Mayall as a sailor but that's the least of reasons to watch it.
5. Eleni ( 1985 )
Kate had the title role in this true-life drama about the execution of the mother of famed investigative reporter Nikolas Gage.
Eleni is a mother of five living in a poor mountainous village in Greece whose husband has gone to find work in America. While she waits for him to gather the means to bring them over, the village is taken over by communist guerillas during the Greek Civil War and she becomes an object of suspicion and calculated humiliations for her link with the capitalist West. This leads to her death. Thirty years later her son Nikolas ( John Malkovich ) gets a posting in Athens at the same time as an amnesty allowing former war criminals to return to Greece comes into force and he sets out to discover what really happened.
The endorsement of Ronald Reagan has cast this film in an unfavourable light but it's far from a crude piece of Commie-bashing propaganda. It's a well-acted story of human endurance and family solidarity. Eleni has no political affiliations; she's just a victim of circumstances trying to keep her family together. Although a little too young for the part Kate is exceptional and was unlucky not to receive some formal recognition. Oliver Cotton as the callous apparatchik who prosecutes her is an excellent villain and Brit stalwart Ronald Pickup as the rather more human military commander is a good foil for him
The historical drama works rather better than the present-day story which doesn't always convince. I couldn't get my head round why the New York Times would require a "bureau chief" in Athens and Gage running around Greece interrogating his suspects at gunpoint smacks more of The Odessa File than a true life drama. And then of course it's John Malkovich, early in his film career but with all the irritating mannerisms already in place.
6. Control ( 1987 )
Kate has the lead female role in this French-Italian-Canadian film originally titled Il Giorno Prima.
She's one of fifteen volunteers for an experiment where they will live together in a fall-out shelter in Frankfurt for a fortnight , sponsored by a hazily-defined Swedish foundation headed by Mrs Havemeyer ( Ingrid Thulin ). The experiment is conducted by a nuclear scientist Dr Monroe ( Burt Lancaster ). The disparate group are learning to get along together and obey the rules when notice of a rogue missile heading their way comes through.
So it's a cross between Threads and Big Brother with a side order of 70s disaster movie tropes thrown in. It doesn't sound promising and there are a lot of holes you can pick in it. The anti-nuclear themes were getting a bit stale even when it was made which is perhaps why the recent Chernobyl disaster is referenced at least twice in the script. The dialogue frequently descends into advocacy without saying anything very illuminating on either side of the debate. Thulin and Lancaster's final exchange harks straight back to a very similar scene they had in The Cassandra Crossing ten years earlier which must have occurred to them both. The cast is too big ; some of the fifteen inmates barely have a line, let alone an interesting back story. And it's thunderingly predictable all the way through.
And yet I quite enjoyed it. This is partly down to the quality of the acting. Despite her character being a stereotype as a British peacenik with dialogue to match, Kate inhabits her part with conviction and her developing romance with the cynical American reporter ( Ben Gazzara ) is believable. Lancaster , in one of his last film roles before succumbing to Alzheimer's, lends the film some star power with his usual strongman persona although he only bookends the main action. The supporting cast , mainly unknown Europeans, are generally good apart from Zeudi Araya but she's playing a wannabe actress so perhaps that was meta-casting
7. White Room ( 1990 )
8. Frankie And Johnny ( 1991 )
Kate marked the year she turned 40 by winning a BAFTA for her supporting role in this romance, adapted from his own play by Terrence McNally. From this point on she usually plays the secondary female role in her films.
The plot , such as it is, concerns a just -released white collar criminal Johnny ( Al Pacino ) who goes to work as a chef at a busy ( it has to be given the staff numbers ) New York diner . One of the four waitresses pops her clogs as soon as he arrives and Johnny sets his sights on the youngest, the seemingly cynical and defensive Frankie ( Michelle Pfeiffer ). I think you can guess where it goes from there.
Most of the pre-publicity surrounding the film centred on Pfeiffer's taking a blue collar role without cosmetic enhancement, presumably hoping to be taken more seriously as an actress. ( ask yourself how many of her films this century you can name for the result.) She still looks pretty good however, staggeringly so in the scene where she's observing the nightlife of the residents in the opposite block. Most of the criticism the film received centred on the casting of Pfeiffer , - and Pacino too to an extent - that they were too attractive to convince as lonely losers on the cusp of middle age. Kathy Bates ( pre-Misery ) who'd played Frankie on stage added her own voice to the detractors.
It is a fair point. The two spark off each other well; apart from one or two raised-eyebrow moments when you expect Al to start bawling and Pfeiffer's very unconvincing four-letter tirade at the bowling alley, they both put in good performances. But yes, you never quite lose the sense you're watching a star vehicle for 2 A-listers to strut their staff rather than an absorbing drama about human relations. There are one or two moderately funny moments but also some really buttock-clenching episodes. You can imagine where we end up with the tasteless sub-plot about Pacino's silent orgasms and it's not pretty ! The finale centred on a radio show is also hard to take.
The supporting cast are good. Jane Morris is perfect as Nedda the ungainly wallflower and Hector Elizondo does well as the gay neighbour - at least if he's meant to be irritating. Then there's Kate as Cora the noisy, abrasive cougar who has a one night stand with Johnny. She's very good at showing the kind hearted and vulnerable person underneath the brassy exterior. Though she's also playing against type she's a much more convincing working class girl than Pfeiffer and it's a shame she's not in it much after the first half hour.
9. Shadows And Fog ( 1991 )
Kate's part in this one is so small you could easily miss her if you weren't looking out for her.
"Shadows And Fog" is a rather self-indulgent Woody Allen film and one of two made just before his acrimonious split with Mia Farrow so they're both in it along with a host of big names in tiny roles. It's filmed in monochrome with many references to German Expressionist cinema to spot if you're into that sort of thing ( I'm not so I didn't ).
The plot, such as it is, concerns Kleinman , a nerdy clerk ( Allen in his usual persona ) in Edwardian New York woken in the night to take part in the hunt for a serial killer, the Strangler, arranged by a vigilante posse. By the time he's dressed they've disappeared and he's wandering the streets to no purpose. At the same time Irmy ( Farrow ) a circus performer deserts her unfaithful lover ( John Malkovich ) and eventually crosses paths with Kleinman after an adventure in a brothel. There's no real logic to the rest of the film; the killer is revealed early on and has no back story, Kleinman bumps into acquaintances from his past and eventually becomes a suspect and Irmy ( in an obvious in-joke ) adopts a baby. The ending , possibly influenced by Twin Peaks, leaves everyone baffled.
Some of it is quite funny, other bits are just annoying particularly where Farrow's involved. The scene where the obnoxious wealthy student played by John Cusack is willing to pay 700 dollars to sleep with the 47- year old Farrow ( still playing the naïve waif ) seems like a sop to an out of control ego ( and highly ironic given subsequent events ). The film is also quite brief and doesn't outstay its welcome at 82 minutes.
Allen is fine as the bewildered man in a Kafkaesque nightmare , a role he's often played before. Malkovich is as irritating as ever and Cusack is fine in an unsympathetic role. As for everyone else they're hardly on screen long enough to count which is a blessing in the case of Madonna as Malkovich's mistress but you do wonder at the likes of Jodie Foster bothering to come in and shoot a couple of scenes as a sassy whore. As for Kate she only appears in a long shot at a window in a pointless scene where she declines to put Farrow up for the night.
10. The Prince Of Tides ( 1991 )
Kate got her only Oscar nomination so far as Best Supporting Actress in this one ( losing out to Mercedes Ruehl in The Fisher King ) . At the time of writing it's Barbara Streisand's penultimate film as a director.
I wasn't looking forward to this one. I remember it coming out and being repelled by the clip released to Film 91 and other shows where the two main protagonists ( Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand ) are having a melodramatic row in an office. That is one of the worst scenes in the film which wasn't quite as bad as I feared but I wouldn't go so far as to recommend it.
The plot concerns Tom Wingo ( Nolte ) a teacher turned listless househusband in the South who , we learn immediately , has had a troubled childhood. His mother Lila ( Kate ) makes an unwelcome house call to tell him that his poetess twin sister Savannah has made another suicide attempt in New York and he should go see what he can do. His sister's psychiatrist Dr Lowenstein ( Barbra Streisand ) asks him to tell her their childhood secrets since, due to some unspecified mental condition, he acts as her memory. Then they get pally despite their differences in background etc. ( yawn ).
I'm not one of those predisposed to kicking Streisand ( as always director, producer and star here ) and I don't know the source novel but she must take the blame for at least some of the faults in this film. It's uneven in pace and tone, switching from light ( unfunny ) comedy to unbelievable melodrama without warning. It's too long : the sub-plot about Tom teaching Lowenstein's spoiled son ( played by Streisand's real-life son Jason Gould ) how to play American so-called football is completely unnecessary and, this being the nineties, we have a Superfluous Gay Character, who looks like Yoffie from Fingerbobs. And yet, despite the length , some important questions , like how Tom's mother managed to snag the local tycoon, or how Jack lost his job go unanswered. And the constant, clumsy North/ South comparisons soon begin to grate
The biggest mistake is the revelation of the final family secret too soon in the film. It stretches credibility to breaking point but at least wakes you up. Then you have a rather dull last third as Tom and Lowenstein have their affair, enlivened only by Jeroen Krabbe as her pantomime prick of a husband . If Streisand had dropped in a sub-title reading "And now it's about ME ! " it wouldn't have been less subtle. And Tom's final voiceover crediting Lowenstein with putting his life back on track is just risible.
As far as her acting goes Streisand is OK and at least there's no transformation scene where she goes from middle-aged woman with big nose to middle-aged woman with big nose after a visit to the hairdresser's. Nolte as usual is a likable lightweight ; there was some noise that year about Anthony Hopkins winning the Oscar despite limited screen time in Silence of the Lambs but if Nolte was the best of the competition he deserved it. ( In fact the film won none of its seven Oscar nominations , notably not for Best Actress or Best Director ). Blythe Danner is quite good in the sympathetic role of Tom's wife
Kate's character is set up to be the villain of the piece but aside from a few social pretensions and some mild emotional abuse she actually seems quite an admirable character undeserving of her son's invective and certainly of her appalling husband ( well played by Brad Sullivan ) who gets a relatively free pass. I should also mention that the make up person who aged Kate for the present-day scenes without reaching for the grey wig and glasses did an excellent job.
11. Fatal Instinct ( 1993 )
Kate next turned to comedy with a lead role in Carl Reiner's spoof of recent erotic thrillers.
She plays Lana , the unfaithful wife of Ned ( Armand Assante ) who juggles two careers as a cop and defence lawyer, assisted in the latter role by the devoted Laura ( Sherilyn Fenn ). He has a one night stand with mysterious femme fatale Lola ( Sean Young ) while Lana plots his death with lunkhead mechanic Frank ( Chris McDonald ). Also gunning for him is just-released pyschopath Max ( James Remar ).
It's not too hard to pick out all the references to the likes of Cape Fear, Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct , Body Heat and Chinatown. All the cast keep a straight face throughout but unfortunately that could probably be said of most of the audience as actual gags are in short supply and diminish as the film progresses after a bright opening. Some of the sight gags are quite amusing but there simply isn't enough of them.
Assante does well enough but he's no Leslie Neilson. The three women all look good without revealing very much. Kate in particular looks concerned to keep her 42 year old body under wraps. Whether or not she can "do comedy" remains unresolved as the credits roll.
12. Wolf ( 1994 )
Kate again has the secondary female role as Jack Nicholson's treacherous wife in this horror-cum-romance-cum-satire from director Mike Nichols. I took my mum to see this at the cinema for a treat and she really enjoyed it.
Nicholson plays Wally Randall , a decent mild-mannered but tiring book editor in a corporate firm headed by slimy patrician Alden ( Christopher Plummer ) who is relying on the loyalty of whizz-kid deputy Stewart ( James Spader ) to keep him in his job. That turns out to be a mistake as Stewart is shafting him in both board and bed room. However Wally recently knocked over a big wolf while driving which bit him before running off and the lupine characteristics he has now acquired allow him to turn the tables on his foes at work as well as date Alden's sulky daughter Laura ( Michelle Pfeiffer ). Wally does start to worry though about what exactly he gets up to when the moon is high.
The satire on U.S. business politics works brilliantly. Plummer and Spader are both excellent at conveying the hideous hypocrisy of corporate culture with its concern for legalistic courtesies. The scene where Nicholson pees on Spader's shoes "just marking out my territory" is rightly lauded.
From that point on though the film dips a bit and becomes more of a generic werewolf movie, well-acted and well-made but relatively predictable.
The film was completely ignored at the Oscars which was a shame for Nicholson who puts in a towering performance but I guess he's been rewarded enough in the past. Kate's is only a small role but she does manage to elicit some sympathy as a woman who gets severely punished for making the wrong choice.
13. Margaret's Museum ( 1995 )
Kate got second billing in this gloomy Anglo-Canadian melodrama about a family and community in thrall to the mines on Canada's eastern seaboard in the late forties.
Kate is mother to Margaret ( Helena Bonham-Carter ) who helps her care for Grand-dad ( Peter Boretski ) whose lungs have been destroyed and younger brother Jim ( Craig Olejnik ) after Kate's husband and eldest son have been killed in the mine. Margaret is charmed by a giant Scotsman Neil ( Clive Russell ) who walks into her life and marries him on a promise he'll stay out of the mine. Economic forces soon mean it's time for painful decisions. Explaining the significance of the title would be a major spoiler.
This film was showered with awards in Canada; both Kate and Bonham- Carter won Genies ( the Canadian equivalent of BAFTAs ) for their roles. I think it's good rather than great. My two gripes are that it's a bit slow for the most part which makes the sudden change in tone in the last 15 minutes a bit jarring. The other is the accents with only Russell sounding comfortable with a Scottish accent and the others' struggles mean some of the dialogue is hard to catch. The Gaelic background isn't crucial to the story anyway so more's lost than gained. What it has got is good period detail, an easily comprehensible narrative and accents notwithstanding , committed performances all round.
Bonham-Carter isn't totally convincing in shabby clothes and with unkempt hair but she does well enough not to let the film down. There's also a smidgen of nudity from her . Kate is brilliant in a harsh role as her grumpy and cynical mother and Twin Peaks's Kenneth Welsh is also excellent as her brother-in-law. Russell doesn't have to do much other than stand around looking sturdy but he certainly does that very well.
14. How To Make An American Quilt ( 1995 )
Kate's next film saw her as part of a largely female ensemble cast. It was directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse and scripted by Jane Anderson from a novel by Whitney Otto. Yes, we're firmly in "chick flick" territory here.
Finn ( Winona Ryder ) is a young woman in her mid-20s working on a thesis and planning marriage to a young but staid carpenter ( Dermot Mulroney ). She decides to spend the summer at the house of her grandmother ( Ellen Burstyn ) and great-aunt ( Anne Bancroft ). They host a sewing bee of middle-aged to old ladies now tasked with making a quilt as a wedding gift to Finn. During the vacation she hears of the romantic travails of each lady - which often intersect- whilst being wooed by the local bit of beef ( Johnathan Schaech ) .
That's it as far as plot goes. It's a contrived premise and some of the dialogue is a bit clunky but I liked it a lot more than I expected to. It's filmed in sumptuous colour with a good eye for period detail in the flashback scenes. There's a pleasing absence of cloying political correctness and Joanna Going looks good naked in a couple of scenes. Most of all it's the quality of the acting that holds you fast even on the less absorbing storylines. Inevitably the husbands / boyfriends involved ( played by the likes of Rip Torn and Derrick O Connor ) don't get a terribly good press but the film doesn't seem outrageously unfair to any of them. In fact the story of Em ( beautifully played as her younger self by Samantha Mathis ) is the most affecting because it's so even-handed. Sometimes it's simply nobody's fault that things don't work out.
Ryder is charming enough but the role means she has to yield centre stage to her seniors amongst whom Bancroft 's is perhaps the best performance although no one lets the side down.
Kate is fine as the slightly younger widow in the group although she's not got the best story to tell and is probably the least necessary character overall.
15. Up Close And Personal ( 1996 )
This was Kate's third film with Michelle Pfeiffer and it's third time unlucky because it's dreadful.
It charts the romance between Tally ( Pfeiffer ) a young news reporter on the make and her initial boss Warren ( Robert Redford ) a former hotshot now coasting as a regional TV manager. As Tally's career advances Warren has to come out of his comfort zone if he's going to stay with her.
There's the germ of an idea for a gripping emotional drama but it's not realised here. For a start both Redford and Pfeiffer are too old for their roles although any younger an actress would make the bedroom scenes a bit too queasy. Nor is it possible to feel much empathy with either of them. There's no real back story to Tally's ambitiousness beyond having a loser sister played by Deedee Pfeiffer who doesn't get to utter a line. Warren is the same character Redford's always played in middle age, a lazy charmer with supposed reserves of integrity that he's never really called on to demonstrate. It doesn't help that the supporting players are all cardboard characters principally there to talk about how brilliant the principals are / were.
At nearly two hours long it's a real endurance test . The supposedly exciting part where Tally is caught in a prison riot is just preposterous with Warren directing her broadcast while the male inmates unaccountably fail to show any interest in gangbanging her.
Kate's part as Warren's ex-wife is as unrewarding as any of the other support. She has a poorly explained role in his retreat from the frontline but otherwise she's just window-dressing.
16. U.S. Marshals ( 1998 )
Kate has a small role in the sequel to the hugely successful The Fugitive.
Tommy Lee Jones reprises his role as Sam Gerrard , leader of a team of US marshals tracking down a fugitive from justice. In this case it's Wesley Snipes who like Harrison Ford in the first film is not really a bad guy and must work out who has framed him. It involves some high level government secrets and so Gerrard must accept a government agent Royce ( Robert Downey Jr ) on his team.
Without the plot of the TV series to rely on this time, the makers had to come up with a new storyline and it's only partly successful. There's an exciting plane crash early on but thereafter it becomes a routine conspiracy thriller which struggles to maintain interest ; apart from a spectacular stunt where Snipes becomes Spiderman for a few seconds and an unexpected revelation towards the end it never manages to raise much excitement and it's at least half an hour too long. It's also poorly written ; Snipes is established as a good guy by Gerrard viewing a grainy CCTV film where he guns down two DSS agents who are trying to lawfully apprehend him and declaring "looks like self-defence" ?
Jones is good enough but the script doesn't give him enough scope to challenge for a second Oscar and he was getting a bit long in the tooth for action heroics by this point. Downey Jr and Snipes bring along their usual charisma but neither are particularly stretched. Kate's role as Jones's boss is fairly small but she makes an impact. There's an early hint of romance between her and Jones which is never followed up; perhaps some scenes were cut which would have developed this and improved a rather hollow film.
17. Boy Meets Girl ( 1998 )
18. The Cider House Rules ( 1999 )
Kate's penultimate film role was in this adaptation of a John Irving novel. It's a strange film which had me in tears a couple of times although much of it isn't that good.
Homer Wells ( Tobey Maguire ) is an intelligent young man growing up in a New England orphanage presided over by the benign Dr Larch ( Michael Caine ) in 1943. After two failed adoptions as a baby Larch takes Homer under his wing and trains him as a doctor to assist his work. Eventually some friction develops over Larch's policy of giving discreet abortions and when a young couple Wally ( Paul Rudd ) and Clara ( Charlize Theron ) check in for one, Homer hitches a ride with them to see the world. Wally's mum ( Kate ) has an orchard and Homer is employed as a field hand living in a shack - the "cider house " of the title - with the migrant workers. When Wally , a fighter pilot goes off to Burma , Clara shows Homer something of the world while Larch and his staff scheme to lure him back.
The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture. It didn't win but Irving got one for adapting his own novel and Caine got another Best Supporting Actor award. Without checking what the competition was I'd say it lost out because it's so uneven, switching from being very moving to quite boring without much warning. All the orphanage scenes pack a huge emotional punch, those at the farm considerably less so. The plot is liberally sprinkled with tragedies , all of them well-telegraphed. Nevertheless one of them reduced me to tears while the demise of the foreman Mr Rose ( Delroy Lindo ) is so contrived I was laughing at it.
Part of the problem lies in the casting. The Cider House gang contains two musical celebrities in place of actors in Heavy D and Erykah Badu who's particularly dreadful, seemingly believing that tossing your hair around a lot constitutes acting. I only know Maguire from Spiderman and this but I'd conclude from that that he's a rather one dimensional actor and I was certainly fed up of seeing that dopey grin by the end of the film. Theron , briefly nude at one point, is very decorative but it's hard to empathise with her character.
Caine, not always my favourite actor, did deserve his Oscar with a moving, restrained performance that holds the film together and makes some fairly unbelievable plot turns convincing. Jane Alexander as his chief support at the orphanage is also very good and young Erik Per Sullivan as the heart-breaking Fuzzy makes an indelible impression.
Kate herself is hardly in it and completely wasted.
19. Premonition ( 2007 )
Kate took a long break before making her next film, though she appeared in Canadian TV movies in the meantime. At the time of writing this is her last film appearance.
Linda ( Sandra Bullock ) is an unhappy housewife and mother of two girls who receives a visit from the local sheriff telling her that husband Jim ( Julian McMahon ) has been killed in a car accident. Her mother ( Kate ) and friend Anna ( Nia Long ) help her prepare for the funeral but when she wakes up next morning she finds - in a scene unfortunately reminiscent of Dallas - Jim in the shower. After further disorientating events such as finding her daughter with unexplained facial injuries Linda realises that she's living a week in the wrong sequence.
This is a supernatural thriller-cum-romance rather than a horror film with echoes of Ghost, The Machinist and Intersection in addition to its Groundhog Day- derived premise. It's interesting without fully rewarding the effort spent in trying to make sense of it. The scene where Linda writes out a chart to make order of her experiences is very necessary for the viewer as well.. It's also quite gloomy with a cold grainy look and so few primary colours it might as well have been filmed in black and white.
Sandra Bullock gives an assured performance in a role that's not too far removed from her character in The Net a dozen years earlier although Jim , a cold and selfish adulterer well played by McMahon, is so unsympathetic you wonder why she's bothered about his demise. Among the other characters Peter Stormare does well as the pyschiatrist.
Kate, looking fabulous for someone in her mid-fifties, makes a good impression in a small and sympathetic role.
Since this film Kate has appeared in the TV series Eleventh Hour and Law and Order : Special Victims Unit but does seem to be taking less work on these days.