[Screen It]


(1998) (Leelee Sobieski, Kris Kristofferson) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate Minor Moderate None Minor
Mild None None None Heavy
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Moderate Mild Heavy Mild Mild

Drama: A young girl grows up and comes of age during the 1960's and 70's in both France and the United States.
The Willis' are an expatriated American family living in Paris in the 1960's. Although Bill (KRIS KRISTOFFERSON) and Marcella (BARBARA HERSHEY) already have a young daughter, Channe (LUISA CONLON), they want a bigger family. Thus, they adopt Benoit (SAMUEL GRUEN), a young French boy who's been living in orphanages ever since his very young mother (VIRGINIE LEDOYEN) gave him away.

Although it takes Benoit a while to feel like part of the family, and both Channe and her nanny, Candida (DOMINIQUE BLANC), initially don't like the family's new addition, soon he and Channe become best pals. Eventually, Benoit takes the name Billy and the family appears quite content.

After several years pass, both Channe (LEELEE SOBIESKI) and Billy (JESSE BRADFORD) are now teenagers and Channe has a new best friend, Francis Fortescue (ANTHONY ROTH COSTANZO). An effeminately flamboyant young man with a penchant for opera, Francis hides his growing attraction to Channe while she comes of age that includes her getting her first period.

Although a romance between the two seems imminent -- just as has evolved between Candida and her "friend," Mamadou (ISAAC DE BANKOLE), the family abruptly returns to the States due to Bill's growing concern about his inherited heart problems. There, both Channe and Billy feel as if they don't fit in, and to compensate, Billy withdraws into himself while Channe begins sleeping around.

As the teens try to deal with their new surroundings, they must also deal with their father's failing health, a situation that will soon change their lives in ways they could not have imagined.

Unless they're fans of someone in the cast, or of Merchant-Ivory films ("A Room With A View," etc...), it's not very likely.
For language.
  • KRIS KRISTOFFERSON plays an American expatriate writer and father. Providing most of the film's profanity, he also condones his teenage daughter's sexual behavior and encourages her to have sex in their house (instead of in a parked car, etc...) while also dealing with his inherited heart problems.
  • BARBARA HERSHEY plays his poker playing wife and loving mother to their kids.
  • LEELEE SOBIESKI plays the teenager who eventually sleeps around with several boys in an attempt to be accepted in her new town.
  • JESSE BRADFORD plays the adopted son who, as a teenager, adopts to his new surroundings by retreating into his home and himself.


    OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
    The second awkwardly titled film of the week (the other being "Ronin") and significantly departing from their previous works, the producing and directing team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory has delivered an interesting, but haphazardly staged drama that's mostly saved by the decent cast and generally good performances.

    Forgoing their usual "costume drama" trappings -- unless you consider the fashion of the 1970's as such -- the filmmaking duo, best known of their "arty" film such as "Howards End" and "A Room With A View," have concocted a dramatic, but fragmented bi-continental coming of age story.

    Based on Kaylie Jones' 1990 autobiographical novel of the same name -- Kris Kristofferson's character is based on her father, James Jones, who wrote "From Here to Eternity" and "The Thin Red Line" -- the film unfortunately suffers from feeling like a haphazardly constructed, and presumably truncated version of the source novel.

    While everything flows forward in a chronological sense through the three titled "chapters" that appear in the movie, many scenes -- particularly in the first two segments -- incongruously pop into the story and then just as abruptly disappear.

    Although I'm not familiar with the original novel, it's apparent that Ivory (a three-time directorial Oscar nominee) and fellow screenwriter, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (an Oscar winner for "Howards End" and "The Remains of the Day") felt compelled to cram as much original material from that novel into this film.

    Thus, scenes involving Marcella's miscarriage and young Channe's encounter with a local French boy in his tree house feel awkwardly placed in the movie. Not only are they introduced and then quicky withdrawn without much fanfare -- let alone often with little or no connection to the scenes preceding and/or following them -- but they, and many similar scenes, feel like there should be more to them then is presented.

    Likewise, the father's longstanding reaction to his involvement in WWII, as well as the romance involving the family's nanny feel shortchanged at best. Consequently, such material -- while presumably further explored in greater detail in the novel -- feels awkwardly placed here, and peaks, but never approaches satisfying the audience's curiosity regarding such matters once they've been introduced.

    The performances are solid across the board, with the standout obviously being Leelee Sobieski ("Deep Impact," "Jungle2Jungle"). Looking ever more like a young Helen Hunt every time she appears on screen, Sobieski perfectly captures the awkward, confusing, and conflicting emotions and thoughts that percolate as one "comes of age."

    Jesse Bradford ("Romeo and Juliet," "Hackers"), who plays her confused and increasingly withdrawn and bitter adopted brother, also delivers a compelling performance, while newcomer Anthony Ruth Costanzo steals the show as Channe's flamboyant, opera loving friend.

    Working hard to win the "comeback of a career" award, Kris Kristofferson (who's already appeared in this year's "Blade" and "Dance With Me"), is good in his role as the ultra-liberal and always compassionate father. While I've never found him to be an actor of great depth, Kristofferson manages to deliver a decent performance. Meanwhile, veteran actress Barbara Hershey ("The Portrait of a Lady," "Hannah and her Sisters") is also good, but clearly has the weakest written role out of the bunch.

    While most viewers would never have imagined the creative and Oscar-nominated team behind such "stately" films like "A Room With a View" and "The Remains of the Day" setting their latest film in the 1970's -- let alone including rock songs from the likes of David Bowie and Deep Purple -- the end result shouldn't let down many of their fans, although it may take them a moment or two to get used to the new "look."

    While a strong narrative sense -- beyond the straightforward chronological trajectory the story obviously follows -- would have made the picture much better and given it more resonance, its cast and their decent performances make up for a great deal of those deficiencies. Different than most anything Merchant and Ivory have delivered in the past, the film isn't up to par with their previous efforts, but it's still a decent production. We give "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries" a 6 out of 10.

    Although it's doubtful many kids will want to see this film, here's a quick look at its content. Profanity is heavy with 5 "f" words and an assortment of other words and phrases occurring. While no real sexual activity is seen, there is some talk regarding teen sexual activity (Channe sleeping around with boys in high school). Some viewers may also find her father's condoning of such behavior -- as well as encouraging for it to occur in his house (instead of a parked car) -- as something with which they don't agree.

    Beyond some casual drinking and smoking, and some tense family moments that include an eventual death, most of the remaining categories have little or no major objectionable material. Even so, you may want to take a closer look at what's been listed should you or someone in your home wish to see this film.

  • We see many scenes of Bill and Marcella playing poker/cards with their friends where many people drink and smoke. Some do the same at a reception.
  • People drink in a bar in a movie showing on TV.
  • Bill and Marcella have drinks in one scene, and then wine in another.
  • Bill has wine.
  • Bill pours Marcella some liquor from his flask (while she's in a hospital bed after having a miscarriage).
  • During an odd, S&M variation of an opera, one character acts as if she's snorting cocaine from her fingernail, and then acts like she's shooting up with a syringe.
  • The Willis family has wine/champagne.
  • Some people out on a beach drink.
  • Marcella has a drink.
  • Channe and a guy she's seeing drink in a bar (he has a beer, she a "dessert" drink) where both are underage.
  • Bill and Marcella have wine.
  • Teens drink at a New Year's Eve party, while Bill, Marcella and Billy have champagne at home.
  • Channe sees a tiny bit of blood on her chair when she first gets her period.
  • Billy's nose is bloody after another student briefly attacks him.
  • Young Channe initially isn't happy that Billy's joined their family (the same holds true for Candida), but she quickly warms up to him.
  • Young Billy's teacher is mean to him and often locks him in the coat closet (we see this once).
  • Young Channe forges her father's signature on a fake excuse note (but is caught and reprimanded).
  • Francis is disrespectful to both his teacher during class, and to Channe who wants to listen to the teacher.
  • Some may see Bill's solution to Channe and her boyfriend having sex in a car (instead he tells them to do it in her bedroom) as having some of both.
  • None.
  • Billy shoots a cap gun while watching an old Western movie on TV where the characters have guns.
  • Phrases: "Bitch" (said several times), "Bastard," "Shut up," "Screwed up," "Nuts" (crazy), "Slut," "Scumbag," "Jackass" and "Chick" (how Marcella refers to herself).
  • Young Channe forges her father's signature on a fake excuse note (but is caught and reprimanded).
  • Channe throws a cup out her car window (littering).
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least 5 "f" words (1 used with "mother"), 2 "s" words, 1 slang term using male genitals ("pr*ck"), 5 craps, 5 damns, 4 asses (all used with "hole"), 4 hells, 2 S.O.B.'s, and 7 uses of "G- damn," 4 of "Jesus," 3 of "God" (with one in subtitles), 2 of "For God's sakes" and 1 use each of "My God," "Oh my God," "Christ's sakes," "Christ" and "Swear to God" as exclamations.
  • There's talk that Billy's mother had him when she was fifteen, and we later see a flashback scene where we see her in the woods, presumably with the father (but don't see any activity).
  • Marcella shows some cleavage in a few of the outfits she wears.
  • After trying to get Young Channe to remove her shirt and have a snail crawl across her chest, a young French boy then asks if she wants to see him naked. He then proceeds to unzip his pants, pulls out his penis (we don't see it) and asks, "Do you want to touch it?" She then leaves.
  • Francis tells the teenage Channe that he knows about women and sexuality.
  • During an odd, S&M variation of an opera, some characters wear provocative, leather outfits (one in a bikini-like top), while a man continually and rhythmically feels his crotch behind a woman.
  • Upon Channe first getting her period, her mom and dad talk to her about that. Bill says in his hometown when he was growing up guys were having sex with girls when they were ten, and Marcella says that Bill isn't encouraging Channe to have sex, but just warning her about getting pregnant.
  • We see Channe in her bra where she adjusts her breasts.
  • Channe makes out with a guy in a parked car.
  • Channe tells her dad that she's done some "crazy things" and he immediately knows she's been sleeping around. He asks her, "Was it nice for you?" and she replies, "There was only one -- it was sort of good with him," and she then adds that she's becoming known as the "school slut." Their brief "sex talk" then continues for only a few more moments.
  • Bill asks Channe and her new boyfriend if they're sleeping together yet. When she says that they are, Bill says that he doesn't want them having sex in his car, and says that he'd rather have them sleeping together under his roof. When Marcella briefly questions this, Bill says that they're going to do it anyway, so they might as well do it right (and tells the boyfriend to call home and say that he's spending the night at the Willis'). Marcella then asks if she's been using birth control and of what type and Channe answers that they've been using "rubbers."
  • Marcella smokes several times, as does Bill (cigars).
  • We see many scenes of Bill and Marcella playing poker/cards with their friends where many people drink and smoke. Some do the same at a reception.
  • The social worker who brings Billy to the Willis' smokes, as does Billy's mother and several other miscellaneous characters, including two girls.
  • There's the whole issue of young Billy and the fact that the Willis' are adopting him after he's been from orphanage to orphanage. We later see his mother (who had him when she was 15), who finally gets to see him when she's signing the papers.
  • Francis tells a teacher that he doesn't know who his father is, and later talks to his mother about that.
  • The Willis' briefly deal with Marcella having a miscarriage, and teenage Billy briefly believes that it's somehow his fault (for just being there).
  • Marcella briefly talks with Billy about his father and the history of heart disease in his family.
  • Marcella and Billy briefly have words concerning his recent transition into a "couch potato."
  • Channe and Billy return home from school to find an ambulance at their house and see their father being taken to the hospital (and we later see his return home where he's no longer able to do any physical activity).
  • Although we see the family months afterwards, they all must deal with Bill's death, including Marcella who understandably appears quite depressed.
  • Being adopted and why mothers put up their kids for adoption.
  • There's a brief scene dealing with Marcella just after having had a miscarriage.
  • We see a man smack another man on a TV show.
  • Young Channe and Billy struggle over his valise, and Candida then separates them and smacks him.
  • Young Billy's teacher grabs him by the ear and then leads him to the coat closet where she locks him inside.
  • Learning of that, Marcella later throws a handful of sand into that teacher's eyes.
  • A young French boy struggles with young Channe when she tries to leave his tree house after he shows her his penis (we don't see it).
  • Some boys briefly get into a fight in the schoolyard.
  • Another student comes up, puts a jacket over Billy's head, and then hits him several times, resulting in Billy having a bloody nose.

  • Reviewed September 10, 1998

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