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CARRIED AWAY(director: Bruno Barreto; screenwriters: Ed Jones/Dale Herd/based on the novel “Farmer” by Jim Harrison; cinematographer: Declan Quinn; editor: Bruce Cannon; music: Bruce Broughton; cast: Dennis Hopper (Joseph Svenden), Amy Irving (Rosealee Henson), Amy Locane (Catherine Wheeler), Julie Harris (Joseph’s mother), Gary Busey (Major Wheeler), Hal Holbrook (Dr. Evans), Christopher Pettiet (Robert Henson); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Lisa M. Hansen/Paul Hertzberg; New Line Cinema; 1996)
“I wasn’t carried away with this Lolita like cautionary tale, but I was impressed enough by its intelligent presentation.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

I wasn’t carried away with this Lolita like cautionary tale, but I was impressed enough by its intelligent presentation. It’s based on the novel “Farmer” by Jim Harrison and written by Ed Jones and Dale Herd. Director Bruno Barreto (“Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands”/”A Show of Force”/”One Tough Cop”) keeps it high-minded and never seems to let it degenerate into trash even when the teenage girl heroine does a Lady Godiva routine.

The 47-year-old rural Midwestern farmer/schoolteacher Joseph Svenden (Dennis Hopper), in the desolate farming community of Howardsville, is being forced into retirement by the school board at the end of the school year because even though he successfully taught at the two-room school for the last twenty years the dedicated teacher doesn’t have the proper teaching credentials now required. The other teacher, of the lower grade students, is the credential certified widow Rosealee Henson (Amy Irving, wife of the director), mother of two children and Joseph’s girlfriend for the last six years. Though Rosealee is willing to marry him, he puts off the wedding with lame excuses.

Joseph walks with a cane ever since a tractor accident. He’s consumed by boredom in this cultural desert and suffers from an unhappiness over his dull personal life. The decent guy is concerned that Rosealee still loves her slain Korean War soldier husband more than him, as their passionless sex always performed in the dark doesn’t get him off and seems to prove what he’s thinking is true. Joseph loved Rosealee since she was eighteen, but she married his best friend. Besides teaching poetry and history Joseph’s kept active doing his farm chores, being an avid hunter and fisherman, and also caring for his hearty independent-minded terminally ill cancer stricken mother (Julie Harris) who lives with him on the family ranch.

When the beautiful newly arrived 17-year-old transfer student from the city, Catherine Wheeler (Amy Locane), is placed in his class and her retired major dad (Gary Busey) gives her permission to store her horse in Joseph’s barn, this opportunity gives the erotically forward and emotionally unstable girl a chance to seduce the all too willing teach in the hayloft and she gets the old fart’s juices flowing again.

The film’s best scene has Joseph talking things over with the kindly wise man family physician Dr. Evans (Hal Holbrook) over his affair with the jail bait teen, and Joseph shaking off his usual inertia to say he could care less how the community will take the news when they find out. His mom later reassures him that having sex with a vixen doesn’t make him a bad guy, but Rosealee is the one he should marry.

Hopper is really into this role, offering an irresistible mixture of pathos and comedy. It’s a film that can’t help itself from moralizing over this tabu affair, but like everything else about the melodrama it does it in a gentle staid way so when the hero becomes emotionally alive after communicating with the one he should love—it all seems to make sense and be believable that he has become ‘carried away.’


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”