Oscar Blindspots: Husbands and Wives/A River Runs Through It

It might be 30 years late, but I’ll be catching up on all the Oscar nominees and winners I have missed from the year 1992 through the month of September

Both Woody Allen and Robert Redford have delivered their fair share of great films throughout the years, but 1992 wasn’t the year where they would achieve former greatness. Though one gets closer than the other.

Husbands and Wives
Directed by Woody Allen

Two pairs of married friends reassess their relationships when Sally (Oscar-nominated Judy Davis) and Jack (Sydney Pollack) announce their amicable separation. Gabe (Allen) and Sally (Mia Farrow) find the faults in their own marriage in the fallout. Judy attempts to pair Sally with her work friend Michael (Liam Neeson), while having feelings for him as well. Gabe becomes enthralled with a young writer Rain (Juliette Lewis) with a rebellious streak.

Outside of his obvious personal issues, I take issue with Allen’s need to put himself in his own work. His films that work the best usually don’t heavily involve him (Annie Hall aside). Absolutely everything about this film works perfectly outside of Allen’s performance. Pollack, Farrow, Neeson, and Lewis all perform Allen’s words beautifully and with the necessary drama. But, as soon as Allen steps in, the drama falls away and almost turns to the comedy I suspect Allen was wanting. There is a perfect movie in here, but Allen can’t get out of his own way.

Judy Davis is the star of the show. She is vulnerable, but uncomfortable. She announces how much she loves being single but is obviously kidding herself. She is a woman spinning in her head about what she really wants. Every scene with her is too short and every scene without her is too long.

Husbands and Wives is an underseen but expertly-performed gem among Allen’s lengthy filmography. It had real potential for true greatness, but Allen’s narcissism won the day.

River Runs Through It
Directed by Robert Redford

Brothers Norman (Craig Schafer) and Paul Maclean (Brad Pitt) live their life under the strict eye of their minister father (Tom Skerritt) in 1920’s Montana. As they grow, Norman becomes a reserved teacher while Paul is a rebellious newspaper man. While they try to figure out their lives, the pair stay hopelessly devoted to fly fishing.

It’s always refreshing to see the young face of a future movie star. Pitt’s energy and charisma is on full display here, but no one else gets on his level. Schafer tries his best, but is far too empty of a presence to resonate with the audience. Skerritt is an always welcome face, but he is more of an ideal than an actual character. I appreciated the subtle work of Brenda Blethyn as the mother as well as Emily Lloyd as the woman who catches Norman’s eye.

Redford has some grand ideas about what he wants this film to be, but it never truly connects. Nothing is ever particularly interesting, and just when things start to get interesting, the film deviates from that thread. This might be the magnum opus for those who love fly fishing, but even that theme gets muddled in the narrative.

The Oscar-winning cinematography is gorgeous, but I wonder if that’s just what rural Montana looks like. It’s all handsomely made, but lacking in character. Meditative, but ultimately hollow, the film has a much greater appreciation for fly fishing than for the characters in the film.

Next week: A pair of heavyweight actresses deliver Oscar-nominated performances with varying returns in Lorenzo’s Oil and Love Field

All 1992 Oscar Blindspots
Oscar Blindspots: Sleuth/The Candidate

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