Far and Away (PG-13)
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So, this came out in 1992, when would have been 16, I guess. I think I saw it in the theater, but I can't remember for sure. I may have seen it on TV or VHS, later. Or not. Whatever, now it's 20 years later... which is hard to believe... 2012, and I'm watching it on DVD, for St. Patrick's Day. I don't remember it well from the last time I watched it, but I remember liking it. The movie wasn't wildly successful, either critically or financially, but neither was it a total failure. It seemed to be received with a fairly "meh" attitude, but I never understood that. I suppose part of what I liked about it was just that Nicole Kidman was as gorgeous as ever, but I enjoyed the story, as well. And really, the whole cast was good, including Kidman, Tom Cruise, Colm Meaney, Barbara Babcock, Thomas Gibson, and Robert Prosky (the only one of these people I don't think I know from anything else). And of course it was directed by Ron Howard, had a score by John Williams... it's hard to believe it wasn't a hit.
Anyway, it starts in 1892. Cruise plays Joseph Donnelly, a tenant farmer in Ireland. We soon see that he likes to fight with his two older brothers, and that he's good at it (in spite of his catch phrase, "I've no wish to fight you.") We also learn that Joseph dreams of someday owning his own land. Their father dies early in the movie, and since their rent hadn't been paid, their home gets burned down by Stephen Chase (Gibson), who manages the business affairs of a man named Daniel Christie (Prosky). So, Joseph goes off to murder Christie. Oddly enough, Christie turns out to be a quite likable fellow (probably my favorite character in the film). But Joseph still tries to kill him... and fails rather miserably. He ends up being captured, and soon insults Stephen, who challenges him to a duel at dawn.
Meanwhile, Christie's daughter, Shannon (Kidman), clearly doesn't like the fact that her mother (Babcock) wants her to act all ladylike and proper. She fancies herself quite "modern," and decides to run away to America, where land is apparently being given away for free. She takes Joseph with her, expecting him to be her servant. It's kind of strange that she is so rebellious against her station in life, but at the same time obviously accepts some aspects of that station, such as feeling superior to Joseph... and pretty much everyone in America. Yeah... very odd mix of snob and feisty free spirit.
But anyway, when they get to America (specifically, Boston), Shannon promptly loses all her money, and Joseph manages to get them both jobs, with the help of a local Irish guy named Mike Kelly (Meaney), who seems to be quite powerful in the area, sort of like a mob boss or something, though I think he had political aspirations. Whatever, he mainly runs a sort of bare-knuckle boxing club that makes him lots of money. And eventually Joseph becomes a prize fighter, and starts making a fair amount of money, as well as attracting the attention of dancers at the club, mainly one named Grace. Meanwhile, Joseph and Shannon were sharing a room Kelly had found for them... at what seems to be more whore house than boarding house. And they were passing themselves off as brother and sister.
Well, events eventually force them both out of their jobs and their home. And then events force them to separate. But eventually they're reunited, in the Oklahoma territory, where many people have gathered to take part in a race to stake claims on various parcels of land. Shannon's parents have their own plan to stake a claim, while Shannon and Stephen race together, and Joseph races for himself. I don't want to say how it all ends, but I found it an amusing and sort of romantic movie, and pretty fun. Of course it had good music, good visuals, and um... I guess that's all I can think to say. It really should have been more popular than it was.