“I don’t know. I want to think about it.” -Caroline in A Thousand Acres the film.
In all, I think the movie did away with proper character building and left only an awkward hodgepodge of character relations and a poor narrative. Many things were different: the male characters seemed only an after thought, the scrutiny of the neighbors was forgotten and the history (loans and taxes!) of the farm was rarely mentioned. Though all of these things made this movie fall flat, my main focus was on the “love test.”
I chose to compare the pivotal scene, the “love test,” in King Lear and A Thousand Acres the novel to the scene in A Thousand Acres the movie, because, for some reason, it really struck a sour chord with me while watching the film. In King Lear, Regen and Goneril give lengthy address to their love of their father, and their appreciation of him and what he has. Cordelia is firm in her own belief and exudes confidence. In the novel it was boiled down to the basics- though Caroline still holds her own. For a refresher this is the passage in the novel:
Larry: “You girls and Ty and Pete, are going to run the show. You’ll each have a third. What do you think?
Ginny: […] “It’s a good idea.”
Rose said, “It’s a great idea.”
Caroline said, “I don’t know.”
In the film, the exchange is nearly the same:
Larry: “We’re going to form a corporation, and you girls are all going to have shares. You girls and Ty and Pete, are going to run the show. You’ll each have a third. Well, what do you say?”
Ginny: “It’s a good idea daddy.”
Rose: “It’s a great idea!”
Caroline: “I don’t know. I want to think about it.”
Larry: “You don’t want it, my girl, you’re out. Simple as that.”
Though the film is a different median, I feel like the transfer of the most important scene of both books, that the film is an adaptation of, has been done away with. Caroline’s answer “I don’t know. I want to think about it” is timid. She is shy and not entirely sure of her position. The character of Smiley’s Caroline and Shakespeare’s Cordelia were both confident in their answers, this gave them authority. Even if Caroline had said only “I don’t know” in Smiley’s adaptation, she was sure of it and there was no further hesitation. I don’t know why the screenwriter kept so many lines from Smiley’s novel and then, here, decided to change the narrative. Even if it was slight, it detracted from the tone of the scene and from the character of Caroline.
I’m leaving my favorite review of this film from Rotten Tomatoes just for kicks: “In many ways, it has less in common with Shakespeare’s tragedy than with Stephen King’s Iowa-set horror story, Children of the Corn.”