Far North

Sam Shepard directs his own script in a comedy-drama set in Minnesota. Just as an eccentric family is about to celebrate the 100th birthday of Gramma (Nina Draxten), Bertrum (Charles Durning) has an accident while racing his buckboard as Mel, the family horse, looks on. Bertrum tries to convince his oldest daughter Kate (Jessica Lange) to shoot Mel in revenge, and various complications ensue. This is far from being the abysmal failure many critics claimed it to be, although the minimal narrative development takes some getting used to. While Shepard’s focus in much of his theater work has been essentially on Marlboro men, for better and for worse, here it’s basically concerned with the absence of same, and the eccentricity and/or insanity that this seems to create in the womenfolk. The premise is certainly questionable, but some of the theatrical turns coaxed out of the actresses are worth watching, and the overall flavor, curiously enough, seems more evocative of Tennessee Williams than of earlier Shepard. With Tess Harper, Donald Moffat, Ann Wedgeworth, and Patricia Arquette. (JR)

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