by Sarah Gopaul, published on May 9, 2008|
Writer/director Kari Skogland likes her women to be strong, independent and flawed, like Hagar Shipley.
Margaret Laurence first imagined Hagar in a book of the same name. The Stone Angel is a best-selling novel taught in English classes across the country and a staple of Canadian literature.
Hagar Shipley (Ellen Burstyn) lived an unconventional life and now in her 80s, she remains feisty and quick-witted. However, as her life nears its end, time has become unstuck for her and she drifts between the past and present. In her youth, Hagar (Christine Horne) was always determined to do things her way, so when her father disapproved of her engagement to Bram Shipley (Cole Hauser) she married him anyway. Her marriage turned from passionate to turbulent but it first gave her two sons. Hagars reflections allow her to come to terms with the tragedies of her past and give in to the loves and joys she denied herself.
Skogland does her part in adapting the original material, giving what she calls the sex, drugs and rock n roll version of the novel. She updated the story to avoid the haphazard flashback within a flashback period piece, but the essence of the story remains the same; this continuity is also accomplished through the use of the original setting the Manitoba landscape.
The cast is composed of great experience and talent as well as a wonderful find in Horne, who is making her feature film debut. And Hornes uncanny resemblance to Burstyn only adds to the overall effectiveness of her performance.
The only negative, besides some shaky editing in places, is the unfortunate tendency for the film to drag. While the narrative is interesting, it has few peaks and they are far between.
Despite the unwavering performances and well of talent, one wonders if this story really had to see the big screen.
Rating: 3 out of 5