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Grand Isle Movie Review

jerk mcgillis headly glenne

The opening night selection for 1991's On Screen: A Celebration of Women in Film Festival was Grand Isle, based on Kate Chopin's 1899 novel The Awakening. It's the story of a young mother married to a jerk who pines for another jerk who teaches her how to swim but who actually sleeps with a third jerk. She attempts art work in the nude, burns all her paintings, and drowns herself after her swimming teacher walks out on her twice. The Awakening, along with Mill on the Floss and Wuthering Heights, is required reading in feminist literature classes, especially if you subscribe to the theory that a woman's entire range of choices at the turn of the century consisted of three jerks or death. But heck, even Queen Victoria's granddaughter (Princess Marie Louise, 1872–1956) obtained a divorce in 1900, with grandma's blessing and consent and if she didn't walk into the sea afterward, the times couldn't have been all that repressive! The ideal director for this sort of delicate material would have been someone like Joan Micklin Silver, who has enormous skill at capturing the look, feel, and sensibility of other eras (Hester Street, Bernice Bobs Her Hair) without ever caricaturizing them. But instead, actress/producer Kelly McGillis chose Mary (Siesta, Pet Semetary 1–2) Lambert whose visions are invariably hermetically sealed and pretentious. If you can accept the fact that any of the shadowy guys in this story are capable of repressing a strapping creature like McGillis, you may like Grand Isle, which wound up on TNT a year after its premiere. (Actually, the underused Glenne Headly, who also appears in the film, would have been a far better casting choice in the lead.)

1991 94m/C Kelly McGillis, Adrian Pasdar, Julian Sands, Jon DeVries, Glenne Headly, Anthony De Sando, Ellen Burstyn; D: Mary Lambert; W: Hesper Anderson; C: Jonathan Tucker. VHS, LV, Closed Caption

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