Top critical review
Dull at Times, But Still Beautiful
Reviewed in the United States on February 27, 2019
A melodramatic romance set within stunning African vistas.
Out of Africa (1985) is Sydney Pollack's epic romance film. Pollack's beautiful direction keeps you engaged in each individual scene alongside the remarkable cinematography. Some of the wide shots looked a little out of focus and Pollack oddly chose a few green screen shots instead of the gorgeous African landscape in all its natural beauty. The plane sequence is particularly lovely to look at set to John Barry's dreamy score.
Out of Africa is far too slowly paced for a movie of this tremendous length. It's a nice romance film despite the daunting length. Pollack could easily have cut this feature down with some clever editing.
The romance is the key to Out of Africa. Meryl Streep is the star here as Karen Blixen. Her Danish accent is perfect and quite convincing. I forgot, as I watched Out of Africa, that she is not Danish by birth. It's really impressive. Her dramatic acting is of a higher caliber than the rest of the film's melodrama. She realistically portrays an unhappy wife and a longing divorcee.
Similarly, Robert Redford starts out as charming as Denys Finch Hatton, then leads into a man unsatisfied with routine and leaves later on. As impressed as I am by Redford's captivating performance, I wish he was in the first half more, as he is hardly present until the second half of Out of Africa, then suddenly he's always there, then he leaves. It's an uneven balance as you wish Redford had a bigger role. Streep carries Out of Africa.
As I stated, you believe in the romance of Out of Africa. The pretty setting, atmospheric music, biting dialogue, and grounded romance keeps you intrigued. Unfortunately, Out of Africa is merely a romance. The drama struggles of Streep's character living alone feel secondary at best. The racial and gender struggles of Africa in this period film feel background issues at most. Out of Africa is a massive undertaking with little to say about the larger cultural issues brought up throughout Out of Africa.
Next, the supporting roles in Out of Africa vary in greatness. Klaus Maria Brandauer is interesting as the philandering and negligent husband Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke. He definitely is underutilized as he actually disappears halfway into Out of Africa. Malick Bowens is excellent as Faran. His friendship and kindness to Streep's leading lady feel the most real relationship in Out of Africa in the end. Bowens plays it with a subtle knowledge and understanding as the servant and translator. Lastly, Suzanna Hamilton is charming as Felicity, though faintly remarkable due to the fact that she also disappears until towards the end of Out of Africa.
In all, Out of Africa uses Streep and Redford well while they are on screen together, but the unbalanced structure leaves you bored in many parts. Pollack's direction feels languid instead of innovative. The natural African backdrop is always inviting, but the clear animal cruelty is distracting. I like the romance, but I'll leave the melodrama in Out of Africa.