Picks and Pans Review: Cross Creek

UPDATED 10/03/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 10/03/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT

Overly romantic and full of implicit announcements by director Martin (Norma Rae) Ritt that here is an independent-woman-before-it-was-fashionable movie, this is still an ultimately satisfying experience. It is based on the memoirs of novelist Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. She was so determined to become an author that she retreated to an isolated Florida orange plantation in 1928 to write gothic novels. Her newsman husband accompanied her but soon left Rawlings to her new backwoods neighbors, who eventually inspired her most famous novel, The Yearling. Mary (Ragtime) Steenburgen plays Rawlings, who died in 1953, with a remarkable combination of strength and vulnerability. Peter (E.T.) Coyote is warmly effective as the Cross Creek, Fla. hotel man Rawlings married. And Rip (Heartland) Torn shows both heart and humor as the neighbor whose daughter became the model for Jody, the young hero of The Yearling. Ritt comes off like a cinematic version of the French primitive painter Henri Rousseau, all agog at the purity of untamed nature. He does, though, avoid melodrama and fashions a touching love scene between Steenburgen and Coyote. Then, too, the movie in general and Steenburgen in particular are so nice to look at it's easy to fall into rhythm with the story. (PG)

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