"Out of Africa" DVD, Blu-ray Review

4/27/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Review

"Out of Africa"

Directed by Sydney Pollack, Written by Kurt Luedtke, 160 Minutes, Rated PG

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

"Out of Africa" tells the true story of Baroness Karen von Blixen (Meryl Streep), her time in Africa, and her relationships with her husband Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke (Klaus Maria Brandauer) and hunter Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford). Spanning nearly 20 years and taking place in the wilds of Kenya, it's an epic in every sense of the word--still, it tells a very personal story in spite of its epic scope.  Here is a movie whose tale is simply and carefully told.

Karen moves to Africa upon her marriage to Baron Finecke. The two marry more for convenience than romance--they were just close friends, but the Baron was in need of money and Karen wanted the title of Baroness. Through their time together in Africa, Karen grows to care for him, but his growing disinterest and infidelity keep them apart. Karen meets Denys Finch Hatton by sheer fate one day, and through various coincidental encounters the two begin a relationship themselves.

As I said, a simple story, and not really anything particularly revelatory for a romance, but it's in the execution that the film really excels. At 160 minutes, the film takes a lot of time to introduce us to this world--though it has the typical Hollywood "fish out of water" feel, the film makes Africa itself a living, breathing organism, and it's a great pleasure to see the way this world was explored back before Africa became more of a setting for political conflict in film. This idea is even touched upon in the film, where it's suggested the country would have been better off if Europeans and Americans had never set foot there.

We don't get a very good idea of who Karen is or why she thinks the way she does, but rest assured, Streep makes up for any flaw in the character's writing with her excellent performance. Really, with Streep, it's like you're not even watching an actress. With something as simple as her accent and the way she carries herself, Streep can completely embody another person. At 160 minutes, the film tends to drag a bit, but we spend pretty much every moment with Streep, and with a performance this good, she's company worth keeping.

Despite not having as much screentime as one might expect, Redford also leaves quite an impression as Denys. Like Karen, he doesn't get much development overall, but as soon as you see him, you like him, and that's pretty much entirely thanks to Redford, who could bring endless charm to practically any role.

The film took home a few big awards at the Oscars--Best Picture and Best Director for Sydney Pollack, among others. It's to be expected--a romantic epic starring Redford who used to be a huge Oscar draw, and Streep, who's still a huge draw to this day. Its most deserving award was certainly the one for cinematography--even at its slowest, this is one gorgeous looking film, and the African landscapes haven't looked this good since.

It's not a perfect film, and it could have used a trim here and there, but Streep and Redford, as well as the fantastic visuals, make "Out of Africa" well worth a watch, and those looking for romance will definitely find a great one here.

Grade: B

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