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The Next Reel • Season 11 • Series: John Heard • Rambling Rose, d: Martha Coolidge (1991)

Rambling Rose

“I’m curious, Rose. I’m very curious.”

Coming of age stories come in all shapes and sizes. The adaptation of Calder Willingham’s 1972 semi-autobiographical novel ‘Rambling Rose’ into Martha Coolidge’s 1991 film of the same name was one that captured a slice of life of a teenager and his family growing up in the South during the Great Depression. His coming of age largely happens when the new housekeeper moves in and piques his sexual awareness. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we wrap up our John Heard series with Coolidge’s 1991 film Rambling Rose.

Does Rambling Rose work for us?

This is an interesting film because there’s a lot about it to discuss. But does that mean we liked it? Pete really didn’t while Andy liked it but with reservations. Neither of us were as captured as critics were at the time, so why is that?

We go back and forth on the characters here. Andy likes Robert Duvall. Pete doesn’t. We both love Diane Ladd. Laura Dern and Lukas Haas are great but what do we think of their characters? And that doctor? Is he stupidly evil or is there more to him?

Of course there’s the whole sexual exploration dealt with between an underage teen and a 19-year-old. Does that feel problematic? Or is it dealt with in a believable way? But what about how they handled it during the production?

John Heard’s in this, but only in the framing device. Do we even like the framing device for this film? Would it have worked without it?

How about Martha Coolidge’s direction? And how the heck did Renny Harlin and Mario Kasar get involved?

It’s an interesting film. Not one of our favorites, though even we disagree on whether it works or not. But it’s worth watching and discussing for sure, so check it out then tune in. The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!

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