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91: Sophie’s Choice

61666Sophie’s Choice, 1982

From Jon:

As I mentioned in my Goodfellas review, one issue that pops up as we work our way through this list it that there are a number of movies that I haven’t seen, yet because I pay attention to pop culture, I have seen, or at the very least know enough about to ruin the movie. A lot of these movies have become part of our collective conscience and knowing certain things affects the prism that we see the movie through. I would like to say I go into each one of these movies with an open mind and a unmarred perspective, none of us likes to think that we are biased, but truly believing that is just being naive. On one hand, I want to be fair to all of these movies and imagine what it must have been like to view them when they came out. To truly understand their impact you have to be able to do that. But, on the other hand, I feel like part of this exercise is assessing the timelessness of the films. If a film fails to have the same impact now that it had thirty years ago, is it really great or is it just a product of its time?

It’s kind of hard to have lived through the 80’s and 90’s and not be familiar with this title. Between the best-selling novel and this movie the idea of being forced into an impossible choice was branded into society’s lexicon as a Sophie’s Choice. It’s hard to watch the movie thirty-four years later without bringing this knowledge with you. But here’s the thing… that’s not really what the movie is about. Or maybe it is in some obtuse way, but watching this movie waiting for the depiction of this horrible situation and then getting a terrible payoff three-quarters of the way through the film didn’t make it seem so. Sophie’s story is told in such a way that it felt more like a minor plot point than a society defining event. If I didn’t know that Sophie was carrying around a terrible secret going into the viewing, I can’t imagine watching the movie for two hours wondering what she was not telling us. The movie was about a southern boy’s journey into adulthood, not the impossible choice given to a Polish concentration camp prisoner. It really should have been called Stingo’s Journey, not Sophie’s Choice. Then again, maybe the movie has a different effect on you if you have no idea what’s coming, though I find that hard to believe.

Sophie’s choice aside, I really didn’t think that this was that great a movie. The acting was fantastic, you can’t go wrong with Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline is one of my favorites, but there really wasn’t anything else here. I couldn’t help but think of it as a cheap attempt to mimic The Great Gatsby. It didn’t tell the same story, but the whole idea of a narrator coming of age as he played the part of a third wheel in a tragic relationship smelled too familiar. Nothing in the story really pulled me in or grabbed my attention. Of course, I was just waiting for the big reveal which never really came.

I don’t think this movie belongs on this list and I feel the further we get away from the 80’s, the quicker it is going to be forgotten. The term may stick with us but people are going to forget where it came from because there isn’t much here to make them remember.

I give Sophie’s Choice one scoop of rainbow sherbet. It sounds really good but the minute I put it in my mouth I realize I made a mistake.

From Jenny:

If you’ve already read Jon’s post, you probably just want to skip mine. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing this movie, because I thought it was going to be difficult to watch, and we even put it off for a little while at the beginning of the summer. But when we started watching Sophie’s Choice, and I told Jon I needed a break after about an hour the first night, it was out of boredom, not heartache.

I’m didn’t buy the “fast friendship” that develops between the unlikely and unraveling couple (Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline) and the third wheel (Peter MacNicol as Stingo, who has traveled to Brooklyn to write his novel). It’s not strange enough, or funny enough, or anything enough to be remarkable, believable, or comfortable. As a character, Sophie was believable and , but I can’t get a read on the guy, and the kid is just a weird tagalog, staring wide-eyed at Sophie for a look of approval at each of his antics.

And then when Nathan has a particularly bad episode and renounces his friendship with Sophie and the other guy, we were supposed to be surprised? He was never trustworthy or a character I developed any sympathy for. Then Stingo finds out that Sophie’s father was a Nazi sympathizer, he confronts her, they say goodbye, but ugh now he’s still upstairs with her again.

I felt the pacing of the movie was strange and slow. An hour and a half into the movie, we go into a flashback to 1938.

Basically, Jon and I agreed that the movie should have been called Stingo’s Journey, because it was not centered around Sophie and “her choice” to any satisfying degree.  I do understand and agree that that choice, the one we all know she had to make, was horrifying and something I can’t even wrap my mind around. I see how that impacted her in a way that was irrecoverable. It just didn’t move me, because by the time they got to that part of the story, I was not invested and that window had closed.  

At one point in time, Sophie’s Choice was was on my “to read” list, but not currently. I don’t want to say I’ll never read it, because I realize my experience with the movie is not in line with most other people’s and I am sure that the book deserves better reception than I gave this movie. I have always been very interested in books and movies about Holocaust survivors and various aspects of WWII. I could be convinced that this was a better movie, if anyone out there wanted to argue about it. I just don’t care that much, so I’m moving on. It didn’t work for me.

I give Sophie’s Choice one bowl of low-fat vanilla ice cream, scooped atop a thin layer of chocolate sauce waiting at the bottom of the bowl. You don’t really get why it’s so good until you’re almost finished and you sort of wish you chose something else.

Up Next: Swing Time

Jon says: If this is anything like Swingers I’m in!

Jenny says: Please entertain me.

One response to “91: Sophie’s Choice

  1. Nancy K.

    I saw this in HS with NO idea of what the choice was. I left the room and went into the bathroom to sob hysterically and vomit. Clearly I should have watched it with you guys knowing what the choice was… because I don’t remember a crap movie. Just that punch in the gut. Scarring!


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