Yesterday was Superbowl Sunday, so Pa Baldwin and I spent the afternoon as so many fathers and sons do around the nation: gathered in front of the big screen TV, drinking beer, and thrilling to the emotional rollercoaster that is Sophie’s Choice.
All I really knew about the motion picture ahead of time was The Scene; from that I extrapolated that the whole film was set during the Holocaust. I was therefore confused when the film opened in 1947, with the eponymous Sophie safe and childless. Okay, thought I, it’s a framing device: we’ll get 10 minutes of this, an hour and a half of the main narrative, and then a brief epilogue. Wrong again, chief. The bulk of the film is a John Irvingesque relationship drama with genuinely funny moments, thanks to the comic styling of Kevin Kline (in his first movie!) and an extended sequence involving a reformed prude that can only be described as hilarious (an adjective I was pretty sure would not appear in this review). All this was good but not great. Without The Scene, I’m confident that Sophie’s Choice would have long since been forgotten.
And, I must admit, the punch-in-the-gut impact of The Scene was somewhat muted by my (a) foreknowledge of the event it depicts, (b) familiarity with Streep’s acting prowess, and (c) having previously endured Schindler’s List, The Pianist, Into the Arms of Strangers, and probably a few more, the memories of which I have suppressed. Not enough to keep me from tearing up, but I didn’t end the evening rocking in the corner, either. Definitely a haunter, though: The Scene has popped into my head half a dozen times since last night, and I keep watching the clip on Youtube*, seemingly against my will.
I’m finding it hard to assign a rating to Sophie’s Choice, mostly because it was so unlike what I had expected. I think I’d need to watch it again to really form an opinion–maybe Pa Baldwin and I will do that on Father’s Day. For now, 7.5/10.
Next up in the AFI 100 Project: Yankee Doodle Dandy and The Bridge on the River Kwai.
* A warning to those who have never seen Sophie’s Choise: watching this will not “ruin” the move, but, as I have said, will undoubtedly lessens its impact to some degree. If you ever expect to watch the film in its entirely, I’d strongly recommend foregoing the clip.