50/50 Review #43: Out Of Africa.

This... is one really long movie. Going in, I knew very little about the film except the setting and its stars and that there's a romance. And now that it's over... all I'll probably remember is the setting, it's stars, and that there was a romance. Karen (Meryl Streep) moves to Africa with Baron Bror (Klaus Maria Brandauer). But after he sleeps around with others and leaves her, she begins a love affair with Denys (Robert Redford).

And that's the story of this just shy of 3-hours movie. I'm a sucker for a good romance (I said good romance. Not like Twilight or any of that crap). At least for me, a romance is as strong as its female lead and as fascinating as its male lead (I suppose for a LGBT romance, it's as strong as its main character and as fascinating as its romantic lead). Where something like Twilight fails (and it fails in many, many places... but speaking from a romance perspective) is that Bella is about as weak as you can get in a main character of any variety, romantic or otherwise. She's a cardboard cutout with a hole at the head for women to poke their faces through and take her spot (I won't get into the whole "terrible person" thing). And then you have Edward, who is just not a fascinating character, either. He's a creepy, sparkling, asshole stalker. And both of these characters exist purely for the other. They have no lives outside of this romance, and everything they do revolves around it--it's even brought up within the books themselves at one point. The story is a feminist's nightmare.

Don't worry, I'm not going to say this is Twilight in Africa. Not even close. Robert Redford has the best character in the film, and I'm constantly drawn to his charisma (as always). But there's one scene in this movie that basically says everything I felt about this relationship and about Karen. They're sitting by the fireplace, and Redford wants to go on a Safari. Streep doesn't want him to go since he just came back from one. They argue, and Redford accuses Streep of confusing what she needs with what she wants and how she always has. And Streep doesn't help her case when every word out of her mouth shows how she lives to be in a relationship--that's her sole purpose in life. If she's not married, she needs to be looking to marry. You can call it a view of the times, but it bothered me. I had a lot of trouble getting behind her character and didn't find her very likable (except when she was interacting with the natives). So what I'm getting at here is that the movie was fascinating and enjoyable when Redford was on the screen. But when it was just Streep... it took a lot more work to keep itself going for me.

One thing that really helped was the setting. The visuals of this film were gorgeous, from the landscapes to the wildlife. Anytime the focus was brought to the scenery or, say, the lions (particularly the lions), my attention shot up considerably. Also, as stated before, anytime there was attention given to the tribespeople, I found myself interested. I liked the deal she makes with the boy with the hurt leg. Anything to deal with that was fascinating. Unfortunately, that didn't come up all that often (at least considering the running time).

Otherwise, I'm struggling finding much to talk about. Redford is great, but he's barely in the film until the last hour. Up to that point, it felt like it was going to be a long haul with only some occasional good scenes (anything in the previous paragraph). It's definitely not a bad movie, as evidenced by its multiple Oscar wins. It just had a romance I had trouble with due to a character I couldn't entirely get behind, and a length that was far too long (...and don't get me started on the accent). But the setting, visuals, and overall culture of it was great. If anything, see it for that. Well, and Robert Redford... but that's kind of a given.

Stop Saying OK! OK.


  1. You were nicer to this film than I was. I called it a Harlequin romance, and I stand by that assessment.

  2. You do know this is a real story, right?

    1. And I knew that was gonna be the response, but honestly... that doesn't help me like her or the romance between the two any more or less. It's an interesting story, and the troubles that she had to deal with were interesting... but it seemed like the film just kinda brushed past most of the non-romance aspects in favor for that part of the story. "Oh, she fought having syphilis. Let's make that 5 minutes of the movie." or "She built a school to work with the natives. Let's not focus on that aspect of her life too much. The romance isn't there." or "She interacts with the tribes and builts rapport with them. Let's kinda put that there, but not spend too much time." To me, all the interesting parts of her life were nearly ignored just to get to what Steve calls a Harlequin romance.

    2. Not to mention the fact that the romance takes a good two hours to actually get going. You call War Horse "Sunsets: The Movie." This one is sort of "Wide-Open Spaces...In Color!"


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