1985 • Out of Africa

The best 1985 had to offer.The Best Picture project finally resumes! Friday evening, Lauren and I were both suffering from colds, so we stayed in and cuddled up to watch 1985’s Out of Africa which had been sitting on our TV stand for a couple months. As usual, when we have time for TV in the summer, it’s Twins baseball first. I had once been warned that I would not like this movie, that at 2 hours, 41 minutes it was too slow-paced and boring, but as usual I attempted to go into it open-minded, especially since this was based on a true story and that tends to add a little something.

The movie stars Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen, a wealthy Danish woman who in 1914 moves to Kenya to marry Baron von Blixen-Finecke. Baron uses his wife’s fortunes to begin a coffee plantation, not the dairy farm the two had previously discussed. Many local Kenyans are employed here on the plantation, working the fields, with one injured boy chosen to tend to Karen’s home and personal matters. This coffee job is far better than their previous days of goat-herding. Baron is rarely home and puts no work into the coffee investment, instead spending his days wild game hunting.

Eventually Karen and Baron split up, and in steps the dashing wild game hunter Denys Finch Hatton, played by the rugged Robert Redford. Karen falls in love with him and his wild way of life, but soon finds he’s not about to settle down even though he feels the same way.

I did indeed think Out of Africa was fairly boring. It was reminiscent of 1931 Best Picture winner Cimarron in the way it followed an early 1900s character’s life over the course of 20 years. There wasn’t a single light-hearted or comedic moment, but rather one difficult tribulation after the other for Karen Blixen, who remains very level-headed and generous throughout. There were a couple moments of action, especially when the lions attacked Karen and Denys in the jungle. I suppose the real story here was something largely symbolic that went way over my head.

There were things I didn’t fully understand, like why a bunch of rich white people from Denmark moved to Africa in the first place. The native Kenyans seemed to be cool with it and instantly started working for them. This was another of those movies like A Man for All Seasons where I wasn’t sure what the point of the movie was until it was nearly over. It was truly a biopic that showed segments of Karen’s life rather than a single plot with a climax and ending. That made the 161 minutes go by pretty slowly.

There were some positives though. Meryl Streep was exceptional in her lead role with her unusual accent, and Klaus Maria Brandauer was excellent in his supporting role. There was always a little tensity whenever there were jungle scenes—we never knew when a jungle animal might attack. Karen Bixler was supposedly an amazing storyteller, and we see proof of this at dinner one night when she asks Denys for a single sentence, from which she then creates an elaborate story off the top of her head (though we only see the first few seconds of the story).

Overall though, I felt Out of Africa was one of the least exciting of the Best Pictures so far. Lauren really liked it, though! I fell asleep after two hours and had to finish it in the morning, which is never a good sign. I think I’ll rank this at #35, right behind My Fair Lady and right ahead of Around the World in 80 Days.

1 Comment

  1. […] watched three movies from the mid-80s this week. Last Wednesday, Lauren and I watched 1985′s Out of Africa. For me it was a real snoozer. Saturday, Sarah was over and we watched 1986′s Platoon, an […]

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