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The Ballad of Little Jo Movie Review

amis suzy david greenwald

Suzy Amis delivers an outstanding performance as a woman passing as a man, based on a real-life character of the Old West. As unwed mother Josephine Monaghan, she is rejected by her rich family and heads west. She quickly discovers how difficult life is for a woman alone, and invents a new identity for herself as a male loner named Little Jo (who rather resembles Eric Stoltz). Ornery men quit hassling her and hopeful mothers in the nearby town think that Little Jo might make a great catch for their daughters, but Little Jo wisely tends to business and remains a loner. That is, until Little Jo becomes attracted to the hired hand (wonderfully played by David Chung), who quickly recognizes her true identity. Their subsequent relationship eases the underlying loneliness Little Jo would otherwise feel, but the endless masquerade does exact an enormous internal toll, which Amis reveals with subtle skill. Engrossing from start to finish, the film made me want to see writer/director Maggie Greenwald's other pictures, which include 1988's Home Remedy and the 1989 film noir, The Kill Off. As for Suzy Amis, her splendid work in a starring role here definitely made me wonder why her considerable talents were so squandered a year later in a nothing part in 1994's Blown Away.

1993 (R) 110m/C Suzy Amis, Bo Hopkins, Ian McKellen, Carrie Snodgress, David Chung, Rene Auberjonois, Heather Graham, Anthony Heald, Sam Robards, Ruth Maleczech; D: Maggie Greenwald; W: Maggie Greenwald; C: Declan Quinn; M: David Mansfield. Nominations: Independent Spirit Awards ‘94: Best Actress (Amis). VHS, Closed Caption

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