Project 1993: "Sommersby"

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

*Project 1993 is a series of posts where I review films from the year 1993. I do movies from various genres and mostly ones that really meant something to me. Here's a link to all the articles from the project.

I know this was supposed to be posted on Sundays, but circumstances demanded a delay. Better late than never!

A story about the search for identity and the willpower to savor it
Jack goes to war and for many years, doesn’t return. Just when everyone assumes he’s dead, a man comes to town, claiming to be Jack Sommersby. His wife, Laurel, remembers how he used to treat her, but he has changed vividly. His cruelty has made way for compassion; his abusiveness has been traded for playfulness and his stupidity has transformed into passion. In simple words: he’s a changed man. The big question: has Jack really changed or is this another man?

Sommersby’s plot circles around that particular question. Through a progressing romance, doubts and reconsiderations, we finally get to the surprising but uplifting answer.
The main reason I decided to watch this particular 1993 movie is its actors. And one thing you can be sure of: they won’t disappoint. Richard Gere gives one of his most energetic performances as Jack. Even though we’re not sure of his true identity through most of the film, Gere gives Jack (or whoever he is) a legitimate personality. Not being a fan of most of his work, I was pleasantly surprised. And then there’s Jodie Foster. Seemingly the passé, inferior housewife, Laurel proves us wrong with her strong persona and witty self-respect. Jodie manages to give Laurel lovable yet sharp characteristics with her equal parts strength and vulnerability. Although she’s a no-nonsense kind of woman, she’s hard to read. Does she know the true identity of her husband? Does she really believe he’s an imposter? If so, why would she let a stranger in her house? Is she an accomplice? Or is she a victim after all?

Often in period pieces such as this, strong female characters seem like old news. But Jodie proves that there’s much more where this came from. She has never played such a character, which makes the achievement that much bigger. In one of the court-scenes, Laurel –with one sentence- makes it clear why she’s so sure of herself. The sudden burst of emotion and desperation literally gives you chills.  
Sommersby contains the perfect blend of romance, mystery and drama. Much of the screen-time is reserved for the development of the relationship Jack and Laurel have lost. Sudden emotions or overly done courting are the last things that happen in the storyline. Though there’s a certain charm about the couple, they never let you forget that there’s more to it.

I have to warn you though; this film is not for everyone. The charades, speculations and the continuous question whether or not everyone’s who they say they are might tire certain people. I myself was drawn to the plot. Although the court-room scenes were a bit lengthy at times, I was never bored. It may have been Jodie’s strong screen-presence or the need to get the ultimate solution, but “Sommersby” held my eyes glued to the screen at all times.

I was very much satisfied with the ending as it turns away from any clichés or unrealistic idealisms. The desperate look of complete love between Laurel and Jack in the end was better than Rose and Jack's scene in Titanic (Jack? Jack! Come Back!) Though I hoped for a better ending sequence, I found the final realization a fulfilling one. Although he wasn’t honest at all times, Jack simply fought for his identity and wanted to be superior to the man he once was.


Jack L said...

Great review!
I think Jodie Foster is a pretty great actress, so I might check this out to see her.
I've never been much of a fan of Gere though...
Still this sounds like something I might like, and I'd never heard of it before!

Chelsea said...

Yeah, I've never really liked Gere either, but he surprised me. Plus Foster makes up for everything.
That's the great thing about this project: it makes me watch great little unknowns that I would normally never turn to.

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