Trip to Bountiful, The (1985)

“I guess when you’ve lived longer than your house and your family, then you’ve lived long enough.”

Synopsis:
An elderly woman (Geraldine Page) living with her grown son (John Heard) and controlling daughter-in-law (Carlin Glynn) escapes on a road trip to her home town of Bountiful.

Genres:

Review:
Geraldine Page deservedly won an Oscar for her lead performance in this adaptation of Horton Foote’s stage play. Page’s Carrie Watts is sympathetic yet never cloying, often ornery but usually for good reason. Equally impressive is the cast of supporting actors, most notably Rebecca De Mornay in an atypical role as a kind young bride, and Richard Bradford’s unexpectedly nuanced performance as a local sheriff. As in Foote’s Tender Mercies (1983), Bountiful is ultimately more concerned with character than action; however, there’s a definite arc to the narrative here, as Page moves (literally) from the stuffy confines of her Houston apartment to the open road, and then, finally, to Bountiful. The result is a gently paced story which nonetheless holds genuine suspense, as we wonder what will befall Page once she reaches her beloved destination.

P.S. Bountiful is reminiscent of Ozu’s Tokyo Story (1953) in its depiction of the difficulties facing elderly parents who live with their grown children.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Geraldine Page as Carrie Watts
    Page
  • Rebecca De Mornay as a young army bride Page meets at the bus station
    DeMornay
  • Richard Bradford as a kindly sheriff
    Sheriff
  • Horton Foote’s screenplay
  • Stirring use of the hymn “Softly and Tenderly”

Must See?
Yes, simply for Page’s Oscar-winning performance.

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One Response to “Trip to Bountiful, The (1985)”

  1. A must – a seemingly flawless gem; one not often talked about, and one which holds up well on return ‘trips’.

    When preparing responses for this site, I’m usu. rewatching films and jotting down notes. Here I wrote down almost nothing – I simply couldn’t take myself away. It’s believed that Geraldine Page is the reason to see ‘TTTB’. That’s mainly true: it is a remarkable performance, and a busy one; you can’t take your eyes from her. (Perhaps my favorite scene of hers comes when she tells De Mornay about the man she didn’t marry.)

    But the film as conceived and cast is a treasure. The construction of the script is solid and economic; it’s nicely edited, and Masterson’s direction is spot-on. As noted, Bradford and De Mornay (try watching ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle’ soon after, if you want to see just how different she is) deliver touching performances; Carlin Glynn as Jessie Mae is ‘a piece o’ work’; and John Heard – who doesn’t tend to stand out in film – manages to completely snatch the screen from Page during a moving speech.

    The only things I did write down were two lines Heard has: “I’d rather remember [Bountiful] like it was.” and “It doesn’t do any good rememberin’.” The second line is more or less what Page discovers; the first is what makes her decidedly different from Heard. The diverging perspectives of these two souls form the basis of a real heart-tugger.

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