In 1930's Texas, a widow struggles to start a cotton farm
with the help of a black farmhand and a blind veteran.
Places in the Heart (1984)
Written and Directed by Robert Benton
Starring Sally Field, Danny Glover, John Malkovich,
Lindsay Crouse, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Terry O'Quinn,
Ray Baker, Yankton Hatten, Gennie James
Oscar Wins - Best Actress (Sally Field), Best Original Screenplay
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor
(John Malkovich), Best Supporting Actress (Lindsay Crouse),
Best Director, Best Costume Design
Places in the Heart is an Oscar movie that made a splash in 1984 but has almost completely fallen off the radar these days. I only knew it as the film where Sally Field made her famous "You really like me" speech. But the film is so much more than that. It's a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of insurmountable odds. We follow one woman, Edna Spalding (Field) as she abruptly loses her husband, is repeatedly threatened by the bank, and takes up cotton farming with zero resources so she can pay her mortgage. All of this, mind you, during the Great Depression. It's hard not to root for a story like that. It reminds you of how better off you are.
Edna Spalding's husband Royce (Baker) is shot and killed in a tragic accident. As a result, the bank threatens to foreclose her if she can't make the next payment. Edna is forced to take on a lodger, blind Mr. Will (Malkovich, in a fantastic performance), and a shady farmhand named Moses (Glover, in what may be his career-defining performance). Together, Edna, Mr. Will, and Moses bond and become friends as they try to make the cotton harvest in time to save the farm. The performances are all memorable and the story is timeless. My only issue is the abrupt ending, even if it is awfully sweet and good-natured.
Places in the Heart may not be as strong a performance for Sally Field as her first win for Norma Rae, but it's still a solid, deserving performance. The film itself is pure Oscar bait, but there's nothing wrong with that. It's a film that will make you reflect on what you have and who you have to share it with.