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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 20%
Average: 35%
Pretty Bad: 5%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 8 user ratings

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Map Of The World, A
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by Greg Muskewitz

"One of the few good films to hit the bay so far this year."
5 stars

“I used to think if you fell from grace, it was one stupendous error –or else an unfortunate accident. But when the fall happens, it can happen anywhere, and so gradually, you don’t necessarily sense the matter. You see, it takes at least two, generally three things to alter the course of life. You slip around the truth once, and then again, and maybe one more time, until there you are, feeling for a moment that it was sudden –your arrival at the bottom of the heap.” Or at least so says Alice Goodwin (Sigourney Weaver) of whom we examine during the opening of A Map of the World beginning that fall from grace. She’s an average housewife who lives on a farm with her husband Howard (David Strathairn) and two young daughters. Aside from the super-tolerant mom she is, Alice also doubles as an elementary school nurse, and we observe her on the last day of the school year as she deals with an often sickly and disrespectful child, and then the boy’s irresponsible and trampy mother (Chloë Sevigny).

Then along come those life-altering experiences; while Alice is babysitting her best friend, Teresa’s (Julianne Moore) two daughters, one of them manages to sneak out of the house past the other children while Alice changes into her bathing suit. With great trepidation, Alice finds the girl unconscious in their little lake, and over a period of scenes at the hospital, the little girl dies. There’s a falling out between the women as Teresa mourns over the death and Alice blames it all on herself, falling into a melancholy depression and suffers from a breakdown. Alice finds herself withdrawing from family activities, taking care of the family responsibilities on half-heartedly, and removing the intimacy between her and Howard. The worst is still to come when Sevigny’s character and her son accuse Alice of sexually abusing the child. Other children step up and Alice finds herself in jail. Still in the depths of her mental state, Alice finds a reserved peace in prison, describing it as the “Desert Island” she’s always wanted. With as little court room intervention as possible, Alice continues her searching as Howard does his darndest to keep the family going with a little help from Teresa who had just returned home from a trip designed to take her mind of the tragedy.

A Map of the World is a nicely developed character study of a middle-aged woman caught in mental despair. The human element that the actors emanate, and director Scott Elliott controls and places, supplies the sensitivity and realisticness which is why it is so acerbic. The writers, Peter Hedges and Polly Platt, bring a certain bucolic eloquence to it. Without having read Jane Hamilton’s novel of which this is adapted from, it’s tough to tell how strong the material was from which this is based, but it was definitely able to gather up enough steam for emotional payoffs. The impression that I get from A Map of the World is that it was more of a labor of love; obviously it is a great showcasing role for Sigourney Weaver, but the award buzz that she has subsequently received couldn’t have been too foreseeable. After all, the distributing studio, First Look Pictures, a newbie for me, couldn’t have expected the accolades it has gotten. The same could be said for Weaver, whom I doubt signed on for the role expecting the critical praise (like Gwyneth Paltrow did do I’m sure with The Talented Mr. Ripley).

What made A Map of the World so caustic was its simplicity. It didn’t rely on a big production, but instead some really diligent performances. Weaver was exceptional and deserves the praise she is receiving (though one wonders about the self-abuse topic her character opened the door to and then never went anywhere with). And Julianne Moore also secures herself with a very dominant and sharp supporting role. The women beneficially are aplomb and are only further backed by Strathairn and Sevigny. Sevigny, a favorite of mine (thanks to Duncan Shepherd of The San Diego Reader –that’s right, I’m hooked) is only minimally there, and although she isn’t a revelation like she was in Boys Don’t Cry and The Last Days of Disco, her character bit is none the less more positive exposure (for more, see the upcoming American Psycho). So far in a year of high standards, A Map of the World is one of the few films to achieve a prowess among the other offal and mediocre.

Final Verdict: A-

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originally posted: 02/19/00 15:26:08
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User Comments

5/31/06 stephanie willis Loved this movie, have seen twice 5 stars
9/07/04 tatum Weaver and Moore anchor a weepy script 4 stars
3/04/03 Jack Sommersby Julianne Moore's superb supporting perf is only virtue in this big-screen soap. 2 stars
6/20/01 Mr. X Excellent Storyline-but getting from A to B a bit unexplained 4 stars
1/18/01 JLB This movie is on of the best films I never saw in 1999. I recently rented it and its great! 5 stars
4/24/00 Thor-Leo Wonderful to see Sigourney and Julianne together. Some of Sigourney's best work. 4 stars
12/05/99 MrShowbiz Weaver and Moore play very different mothers in this film that refuses to (crowd) please. 4 stars
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  21-Jan-2000 (R)



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