A Map Of The World Movie Review

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What American Beauty did for the suburbs, A Map of the World aims to do for the farm life.

I said "aims," of course. A Map of the World is deeply flawed yet still worth a look, especially if you're into grandiose, weepy, self-important dramas. And hey, who isn't?

Obviously based on an Oprah-class novel, A Map of the World is the story of Alice Goodwin (Weaver), a put-upon school nurse who lives on a Wisconsin farm as part of an "experiment" by her rather oblivious husband Howard (Straitharn). Right with the voice over at the film's beginning, it's clear that Alice is going to have some Bad Times ahead, and within 20 minutes, said Times are upon us.

Alice is so frazzled she can't even keep an eye on the neighbors' precious daughter, who wanders off about 200 yards to the pond and promptly drowns. Hair tearing and chest beating ensues, and Alice's mindset only gets worse. Then the kicker: A real bitch of a woman (Sevigny) accuses Alice of abusing her son, a student at the school where Alice works. Go to jail, Alice. Courtroom drama follows.

As a story, A Map of the World is all over the map (no pun intended) -- from marital troubles between Alice and Howard to in-law problems (Fletcher playing Howard's doting mother) to legal mumbo-jumbo to a bizarre and out of place stretch with Alice doing time in jail during her trial. The whole notion of jail as a metaphor for Alice's mental healing (you know, a personal prison for dealing with her anguish over the death of the neighbor child?) is unbelievably over-the-top and just comes off as phony.

In fact, very little of this holds together as a narrative, and at 127 minutes, so much of this is extraneous padding that the film positively crawls. Even worse is Weaver's character (not necessarily Weaver herself, mind you). Alice is so selfish, melodramatic, and just plain dumb that the character hurts the film. Contrary to speculation, there will be no Oscar nod for Weaver this year.

Still, there's something to like. Most notable is Julianne Moore as the too-perfect neighbor whose daughter dies. Her character grows more than the rest of the cast combined, and her heartfelt performance makes up for a lot of the rest of this World. Still, the film can't ride on her surprisingly small role alone, so unless this all sounds like your idea of a great way to spend an evening, you'll probably want to pass.

World weary.

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A Map Of The World Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, 1999

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