tek's rating: meh and a half

Rambling Rose (R)
IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; Wikipedia

Caution: spoilers.

This came out in 1991. It was probably a few years or so later that I first saw it, when I... guess I rented it on VHS. I don't remember any details from my original viewing of it, but I do remember not really caring for the movie. But years later, I saw a used DVD of the film, and decided to pick it up. It was probably a couple more years before I got around to watching it. And I probably liked it a bit more than I remembered, but not much. Apparently it was well-received critically (I mean damn, it has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes), and I guess I can understand why. I mean, all the performances were good. But I'm afraid I wasn't wild about the story.

It's framed by opening and closing scenes set in 1971, but most of the movie is set during the Great Depression (I don't think the film ever specified the exact time). It's all basically the recollection of this guy... who had been thirteen at the time of his recollections. Most of the time he's called "Brother," but sometimes he's called "Buddy," but I don't think either of those were his real name. Anyway, he was the oldest of three siblings. He had a younger sister called Doll (not her real name) and an even younger brother called Waski (also not his real name). I think their parents were only ever referred to as Mother and Daddy. (Daddy was played by Robert Duvall, and Mother by Diane Ladd, who is Laura Dern's actual mother.) But anyway, the family's name was Hillyer. And they had taken in a young woman named Rose (played by Dern), who had had some problems, elsewhere. (Apparently some "scoundrels" tried to force her into prostitution, but the Hillyers gave her a job to rescue her from that fate.) She came to live with them as "part of the family," but basically she was sort of a maid. I dunno, her job didn't seem very well defined.

Anyway... she very quickly fell in love with Mr. Hillyer, apparently just because he talked sweetly to her, which presumably is something no one had ever done in her life. But he certainly wasn't leading her on, or anything. And in spite of a very brief and understandable hesitation to spurn her advances (albeit more of a hesitation than I would have had), spurn he soon did. And Rose felt terrible about her behavior. That night, she gets into Buddy's bed, just to talk... which personally I think was crazy, but she was being totally innocent, and clearly had no concept of how a thirteen-year-old's mind works. He, on the other hand... was quite keen on using his hands. And she... made token efforts to dissuade him, but was ultimately ridiculously accomodating of his hands. And of course, she felt terrible about that.

Finally, Rose decides she needs to find "Mr. Right." This leads to trouble, as various guys (who we never really meet) fight over her. But that's sort of incidental. Basically all that happens in the background, so that we'll understand... she's desperate to find love. And because of her past, starting in her early childhood, she has no real conception of what love is. So basically... she seems to take sex as a substitute. And of course all this makes her position in the Hillyer household tenuous. Eventually she gets sick... or apparently had been sick for some time, and did a remarkable job of hiding it. In fact, when her illness becomes apparent, it's basically just a bit of coughing and a fever, so she gets carted off to the hospital (which she is deathly afraid to go to). And that seemed unnecessary to me... I've seen people with mild colds who were worse off than she seemed. But whatever, this was a different time. There were things to worry about like tuberculosis and typhoid and whatnot. I guess she had double pneumonia. Her doctor... was not a likable guy, but of course Rose ended up liking him. I'm not sure if anything unprofessional went on between them, but it very well may have. If so, he was one of any number of guys who may have been with her. Later on, it seems like she's pregnant, but it turns out to be something else. She needs an operation, and her doctor suggests a hysterectomy not only to remove a possibly cancerous cyst, but also to cure her near-nymphomania. Mrs. Hillyer, however, will not hear of it.

I feel I've said too much already about the plot. I don't want to say much more. Just... I think the movie had some very good points but could also be kind of redonkulous. The marriage between Mother and Daddy was fairly good. Mother had what were some remarkably modern ideas, for the time. I mean, a kind of Christianity that sounded rather New Age-y. And Daddy couldn't grasp her philosophies, but even though he sometimes sounded derisive, ultimately it was clear that he loved and respected her. And there's actually a tender scene at the end, between Daddy and Buddy in 1971, in which he said something that sounded very much like something Mother would have said. Which I think was nice. Still, there were just so many things throughout the movie that I just found... wrong. Things Rose did that were wrong (if not really bad), and the way she thought about some things was, I think, incorrect, or at least inaccurate. For example, at one point, she says that women don't want sex, they want love. Which on the surface is ironic considering how willing she was to indulge in sex, in her pursuit of love; and clearly, it's something she enjoyed. Though she did fall in love way too easily, so I must reiterate that she never really knew what love was. (Or perhaps she eventually figured it out, sometime in the years between the main story and the framework, which we never actually saw.) But also I think... in today's world, most women seem to be as interested in sex as men. With or without love. And of course, anyone, even men, can be more interested in love than sex. And... well, I just think the most likable and intelligent person in the film was Mother. Her views on sex, like her views on pretty much everything, were probably closer to reality than anything anyone else said. Not that I always agreed with her 100%; I do think she could be too quick to assume a position on some matters, especially without necessarily knowing all the facts. But basically, she tended to be right about things.

Whatever. I didn't have strong feelings about any of the characters or events in the movie, even if I quite liked all the acting. And I found some things mildly amusing, and it presented some vaguely interesting subjects to think about, I guess. But, while it's nice to have seen it again, I doubt I'll ever bother watching it a third time. On the whole, I found it... simultaneously tedious and the opposite of tedious. But mostly tedious.


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