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Sarah, Plain and Tall (1991) Television Movie Review

By Edited Nov 15, 2013 0 0

This memorable Hallmark movie stars Christopher Walken, Glenn Close and Lexi Randall.  The acting was of high quality, which would explain the reason why the movie won an Emmy.  The plot focuses on a widower of two young children that lost his wife during the birth of their last child.  They live in Kansas during the early 1900’s.  This man was so devastated that he poured into his work as a farmer.  However, the children needed more attention than he could give them, so he put an ad in the newspaper for a wife, otherwise known as a mail-order bride.  A woman named Sarah from Maine answers back.  Society would have considered her a spinster, as she had never been married and always lived with her brother, who was about to be engaged himself.  The character development is evident in the letters sent back and forth between Sarah and the farmer.  Even the farmer's young son is pleasantly curious about Sarah's qualities, from the perspective of someone under seven years of age.  The older sister is a tough nut to crack, as she feels threatened:  this little girl has had to be a mother, cook, cleaner, etc.  The shoes of her late mother are hard to fill and the stress is clearly taking its toll.  Thankfully, she has a mail-order bride from a nearby farm to confide in - very convenient yet relevant at the same time.  Unfortunately, there are times in this film when the plot moves a little slower than desired.  But, the subtle romance between Sarah and the farmer are what make this movie truly entertaining.  This reminds me that every time people fall in love, it truly is a miracle and the arrival is certainly never expected.  Glenn Close reminds me of Katharine Hepburn with regards to her mannerisms (and possibly some physical features).

The meeting of Sarah and the farmer's family was beautifully awkward.  I also fell in love with the sweeping, lush landscapes, both the written descriptions verbalized in the letters as well as the stunning visuals portrayed in the actual movie.  The social functions are hilarious and charming, because the farmer initially refused to admit that he had ordered a bride.  Kansas has its share of natural disasters, and that's fully evident in this film.  It brings on a sense of dire reality, but this harshness is balanced by the sweet simplicity of small, enjoyable pleasures and pastimes:  the swimming scene and playing in the hay are both prime examples.  But the bond grows between Sarah and this family as a flower blossoms in the sun.  However, it's not fear of the social ramifications, tornadoes or the little girl’s initial objections to a new family member that threaten to break up this potentially happy couple:  it's actually the widower’s guilt that's holding back everyone's happiness, including his own.

Walken and Randall give some terrific performances to support Close’s character.  The subtle clarity and serene, profound vistas help to tell the story in three dimensions, literally popping out of the novel's pages.  Sarah may describe herself as plain and tall, but she has a beautiful, quiet inner as well as outer strength (and sometimes stubbornness) that will make for a lasting impression upon anyone that is introduced to her.  In a word, she's perfect for this family and they are perfect for her.


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