Preview #2: In Country (1989)

Why did I choose this movie? Against my better judgement, I chose it because I enjoyed the book it’s based on. In Country was the 1985 debut novel of a very good writer named Bobbie Ann Mason. If her name sounds familiar, it’s probably not because of her writing but because of a by-the-numbers, vaguely pedophilic hit country song about a school crush. “How was I supposed to get an education sittin’ in the back of Miss Bobbie Ann Mason?” The song’s not about her, or at least I hope it isn’t, because the real Bobbie Ann Mason has a PhD in English, meaning the distraction didn’t run both ways.

Anyway, my usual rule is “If you liked the book, never watch the movie.” I’m making an exception in this case.

What do I know about this movie? I’m obviously familiar with the story. I also know that this movie was filmed in western Kentucky, not far from my home in far southern Illinois. And I know this film lost over ten million dollars because it was released after moviegoers had already seen Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, and Good Morning, Vietnam, so they were getting tired of movies about the Vietnam War.

What do I expect from this movie? If you watched the trailer you will note that Bruce Willis is in it. His name is listed first, which makes sense since In Country came out after Die Hard made him a star. But before Die Hard, Willis had come to prominence on the TV series Moonlighting, where he played a cynical, seen-it-all detective named David Addison, who smirked a lot. Moonlighting was a light-hearted, funny show. It broke so much new ground that if you watched it now it would seem entirely conventional because shows still use its innovations. In Die Hard, Willis was John McClane, who was David Addison with a gun. He has spent much of the rest of his career bouncing back and forth between David Addison roles and John McClane roles.

Willis plays Emmett, the uncle of the main character Sam Hughes, who is portrayed by the British actress Emily Lloyd. He is not the main character of the novel, not by a long shot. She is. My fear is that Bruce Willis will take over this movie and I’ll wind up with yet another great 1980s novel turned into an underwhelming movie. It happened before with The Bonfire of the Vanities — and Bruce Willis was in that one, too.

Also, there were two things Mason did in the novel that created tension and helped drive the story that I’m pretty sure wouldn’t translate to the screen. Maybe I’m wrong and I’ll be surprised but I am prepared to be underwhelmed.

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