Well, it is Emmy season, and so I decided to take a look at the made-for-TV movies up for awards to see what struck my fancy. After all, the theatrical releases making their way to DVD this month aren’t stimulating my interest much, so I figure looking to the small screen will be a good diversion. So as I looked at the nominees, this film jumped out at me for one reason: it aired on the Lifetime Network. If Lifetime is known for one thing, it is not for producing high-quality programming! So, needless to say, I was intrigued. I rented The Trip to Bountiful to see what the fuss is about, and I have to say that I found a surprisingly solid film held together by one amazing performance.
This is the story of an elderly woman named Carrie Watts, played by Cicely Tyson in this remake of a 1953 teleplay and a 1985 feature film. Ms. Watts lives with her grown son and daughter-in-law in the city of Houston, yet is increasingly frustrated with her son’s unwillingness to stand up to his controlling wife. She pines to see her hometown again, and one day decides to sneak out and see her childhood home. The film then mostly becomes a series of nostalgic monologues from Ms. Watts, delivered to whomever happens to be around to listen.
Now, I tend to think this is the type of story that’s better told on stage than on the screen, for it’s the type of story that doesn’t capitalize on the visual capabilities of editable film. The scenes tend to linger in one location for longer than is usually acceptable in modern cinema, and the script is mostly just Ms. Watts reminiscing and pining for her lost home. That said, for what this film is, it does a pretty damn good job of delivering. Cicely Tyson gives an outstanding performance, portraying a wide range of subtle emotions that don’t rely on the script to carry their meaning. When she delivers her lines, there’s a glimmer of romanticized remembrance in her eyes, and it’s hard not to pity this old woman who just wants her life to go back to the way it once was. The film is at its best when Ms. Watts finally reaches the town of Bountiful, and the tragedy of time’s passage smacks her right in the face. The various stages of her acceptance are very well portrayed, and I found myself wishing this kindly old woman could have the simple life that she’d been forced to leave behind.
And there really isn’t too much to say about The Trip to Bountiful. It was probably a better experience to see on Broadway when it was revived last year, but barring more performances this film is probably the only way to see this cast perform it right now. I thought it was worth the rental, and Cicely Tyson’s performance alone is enough to put it in the running for this year’s Emmys. If you want a bit of home theater, check this one out.
Have a favorite play-turned-film? Let me know in the comments below.