North Carolina Newspapers is powered by Chronam.
Friday, January 13, 1984The Daily Tar Heel5
Film deals with faith, hope
'Tender Mercies' optimistic
By STEVE CARR
Tender Mercies is a film about faith.
Not just religious faith, but faith in peo
ple and humanity.
Unfortunately, Universal Studios
could have been a little less cynical in
distributing the film. When Tender Mer
cies first came out, it received little ex
posure. Only after receiving positive
reviews and developing a word-of-mouth
following did the film start to do well.
Tender Mercies is the story of a down-and-out
country singer, Mac Sledge,
ditched by a supposed friend in a run
down hotel. His strength and money
sapped by alcohol, Sledge starts to work
for the young war widow who owns the
hotel, doing odd jobs to pay for room
and board. Sledge eventually marries the
The nice thing about Tender Mercies is
its crescendo of optimism. Not once does
Sledge fall back on his bottle. And even
though he is put through a lot, his
character grows strong both during and
after a dilemma. This is a far cry from
the obligatory "falling off the wagon"
scene that has become a manipulative
cliche in this sort of character study.
The portrayal of Sonny, the widow's
child, is also uplifting. Instead of being
obnoxious or resentful, Sonny grows to
love and respect Sledge. His only doubts
come when his peers goad him because
his mother is married to a has-been and a
drunkard. But Sonny manages to quell
his doubts and accept Sledge as a father.
The other developments also contain
positive aspects. A group of mean
looking thugs in a van drives up and asks
to see Sledge. The audience is sure that
they are going to beat him to a pulp. As
it turns out, he returns to singing because
Perhaps Tender Mercies is naive and a
bit Pollyannaish. There is no violence,
no chopping down a character just to
bring him back up. The people in the
film are presented with events some
times good, sometimes bad and the
more we find out about the people, the
better they seem.
Yet it is hard to call something naive
when it seems to know all our doubts
and cynicism. The movie knows that the
audience expects Sledge to hit the bottle
again. It knows we expect some disillu
sioned fan to come barging in on Sledge
to wreak his revenge. It knows we expect
.the kid to suddenly break out screaming
"I hate you, I hate you," to his father.
Tender Mercies is aware of these realistic
mishaps, but it plays upon the audience's
preconceptions. How can something be
, called naive when it makes our
sophistication look rather ridiculous?
,With Mac, Robert Duvall adds
another finlv Hrawn character to his
gallery of performances. Perhaps this
underrated actor will finally receive the
recognition he deserves. Duvall gives
Sledge a certain vulnerability that greatly
enhances both the character and the
In addition, Duvall sang all his own
songs and even wrote some of them.
Newcomer Tess Harper gives the
young war widow a quiet determination
and uncomplicated conviction. Real-life
country star Betty Buckley turns in ad
mirable performances in both the acting
and singing departments, matching
Duvall's versatility. .
Premiere American writer Horton
Foote has produced an excellent script,
one that keeps its characters simple, yet
never mocks them or condescends to
them. Foote is perhaps best known for
his superb screen adaptation of To Kill A
Mockingbird. Tender Mercies is every bit
as good, if not better.
Director Bruce Beresford gives the
film its savvy. Known to American audi
ences for directing Breaker Morant,
Beresford continually plays with some
aU-tco-conventional cliches and comes
up with some surprisingly warm realiza
tions.ejIf the screenplay is perhaps too
brightoo believing in faith, Beresford is
the perfect foil. He continually turns his
camera in a sly, mocking style, yet he
never infringes upon the warmth and
humanity so evident in Tender Mercies.
A ctors spark taut 'Gorky Park '
By SHERYL THOMAS '
Gorky Park is a beautiful film, full of the vibrant melancholia
that drives people caught in a seemingly inescapable situation.
From the eerie tinkling piano keys that accompany the powerful
black-and-white frames of the credits to the unpatriotic release
of hyperactive sables at the movie's end, Gorky Park retains the
characteristically Russian feeling of euphoria being smothered
by a deadly yellow fog.
The feeling of people struggling to escape is subtly conveyed
by the film's stars, William Hurt and Joanna Pacula.
Hurt follows a low-keyed performance as Nick in The Big
Chill with the even more introspective Arkady Renko in Gorky
Park. Hurt's portrayal of the icy chief investigator is smooth
and calculated. He rarely smiles, and even when he speaks in
what should be a highly emotional moment, he retains the un
ruffled countenance appropriate for a man who should know
everything, yet knows nothing.
. But Hurt is able to keep the audience's faith because he some
how conveys to the audience the sense that he is alive and think
ing constantly, always prepared to act.
As talented and precise as Hurt is, his performance is sur
passed by that of newcomer Joanna Pacula. Pacula plays the
fiery Irina Asanova a. Russian malcontent whose sole desire is
to escape the clutches of her homeland. At first, Pacula' s per
formance seems shallow and flat. But as the story develops, it
becomes clear that Pacula's apparent flatness is merely an illu
stration of the deadness that Irina feels while she slowly suffo
cates under the Soviet regime.
As Irina's departure nears, Pacula brings out the vitality and
determination that has been percolating quietly beneath Irina's
steely, impenetrable exterior. The beauty of Pacula's perfor
mance is that she only hints at Irina's determination to defy the
Soviet government and flee to America. Instead of making an
obvious statement, Pacula lets a twitch of the lip, a fiery glare in
her eyes and a self-confident gait say more than the script ever
Gorky Park not only depicts life inside the U.S.S.R., but it
also makes a peculiar statement about Russians and Americans.
Arkady and Irina brim with a vitality that is dying a slow and
torturous death under a stifling Communist blanket.
Conversely, the Americans, Jack Osborne and William Kir
will, who know the privilege of freedom, are amazingly lack
luster and uninteresting. .
' Osborn, played by Lee Marvin, is driven only by money and
what it can buy. He has no depth and, most depressingly, no
desire for anything but the dollar.
Unfortunately, Osborne is uninteresting due to a shoddy and
disappointing performance by Marvin rather than poor
character development in the screenplay. Marvin has confused
Osborne's self-assured "cool" with bored blandness. Marvin
maintains a monotone voice and wooden countenance through
out the movie, never giving a glimpse of the suppressed vitality
which distinguishes Hurt's coolness from Marvin's.
Brian Dennehy plays the New York City detective William
Kirwill. Kirwill, like Osborne, lacks depth and is motivated by
only one thing revenge. Kirwill haphazardly suspects every
one for his brother's death in Gorky Park. He lashes out at these
suspects, whether he has probable cause or not. But the lack of
character depth is, in this case, the fault of the screenplay. Den
nehy has no time to develop Kirwill's character. His appearances
are sporadic and really do not contribute anything to the story,
except when he miraculously saves Arkady from a knifing.
Aside from the faulty development of Kirwill's character,
Dennis Potter has very effectively adapted Martin Cruz Smith's
novel Gorky Park into a screenplay. Potter has preserved the
meat of the story and cut out all the fat. Fans of Smith's novel
are able to get a sense both of an insider's knowledge of the ac
tion and of never having read the book at all. One begins to
wonder if what Potter excluded from his screenplay really con
tributes to Smith's novel at all.
Gorky Park is a fast-paced and occasionally disjointed film,;
constantly jumping from one scene to another with no real tran
sitions. But this style is necessary, because so much action must
be crammed into 20 minutes.
For those who would rather not spend the money for a second
viewing or the book, Gorky Park is still worthwhile. The action
is foilowable, James Horner's music is gorgeous and the superb
performances of William Hurt and Joanna Pacula recommend
the movie by themselves.
March 6f Dimes
THIS SACf CCNTBUUO pv TMf PUBHSMEH
Chicken & Ribs ,r
(in A&P Parking Lot)
Beer Ci Wine
11 am-11 pm
Mon. & Fri. 3-5
Beer Vi Price
oitmnwmi shown -ryci
Mondays and Wednesdays
Fencing Room Fetzer Gym
Beginning Monday, Jan. 1 6
For Mare Information Contact:
John Andrews' 1-596-8847
Jack Davis 942-4382
The Apartment People'
Avoid the lottery blues.
Apply now! All apartments
on the bus line to U.N.C.
Call today for full Informa
tion. 967-2231 or 967-2234.
r" (( n "Y
JJ q Durham
0L fn )9(9
r c u u
NIKE RIVALRY - TENNIS
ADIDAS JABBAR LOW WHBL
NIKE GAMEBREAKER LOW BLEM
NIKE DYNASTY HI & LOW BLEM
NIKE BLAZER CANVAS BLEM '
NYLON ATHLETIC BAGS
20 to 50 Off
AUTHENTIC CANTERBURY RUGBY SHIRTS
100 COTTON Reg. $44.95
COMBO BACKPACK FANNYPACK
Reg. $24.95 SH U J
WILSON STING GRAPHITE RACQUET
Mid or Oversized jiBl $9.95
ALL TENNIS BALLS (3 per can)
umit 4 cans per customer
mmn scum's spieiaiL
Assorted Ski Jackets - Values to $112.95
special croup - Over 100 to Choose From!
INSULATED SKI BIBSReg. $49.95 $29.!
ALL WOOLRICH DOWN COATS & VESTS
me ay ouBy!
Durham Sporting Goods
NORTHGATE MALL DURHAM 2864432-SOUTH SQUARE MALL DURHAM M93-3577
PARKW00D MALL WILSON 291 -0445
OPEN WEEKDAYS 10-9 SUHDAY 1-6
No Hunting and Fishing Liscences
Sold During Day of Sale