The River King is an accurate, although somewhat rushed adaptation of Alice Hoffman’s compelling, fascinating book. Most aspects of the storyline were included, and flashbacks were placed appropriately. The movie had strong casting, strong acting, and beautiful cinematography, albeit lacking the emotional punch and detail that the novel had.
Jennifer Ehle, obviously, and as per usual, stole the show. She was incredibly beautiful, and played Betsy sensitively and connected with the audience tremendously well. The other standout performances were from Rachelle Lefevre (Carlin Leander), and the boy who played Gus Pierce (was that Thomas Gibson?…). He showed great potential as a newcomer, and made you connect with Gus, and the pain he was going through. Rachelle, although different to how I’d imagined Carlin, was a perfect choice. Their relationship developed well, and in quite some depth. Harry was also extremely nasty, but devastatingly handsome, which worked particularly well.
One aspect of the movie I was disappointed with was Betsy and Abel’s relationship. I must say that I was dissatisfied with Ed Burns' performance. He made a good Abe, but didn’t bounce off Jennifer Ehle the way he ought to. I could tell Jennifer Ehle was trying to create the sparks (especially in the early parts of the relationship), but he had trouble reacting, perhaps as a result of being too involved in his own part. That made their affair a little unbelievable, and it didn’t convince me that they were consumed with passion.
There were parts of the story that I missed, as they were not included in the film. Firstly, Betsy’s clumsiness and awkwardness- which to be fair, was probably due to Kane and Willing trying to cut down on aspects of the story to fit into a movie. The same goes for Helen Davis, who was not included at all in the film, and Abe’s admiration of his grandfather. All of these aspects of the story go to help the reader/viewer to understand each character’s situation, and motivations. I think characters could have been more well-developed if more time was given to the production, as it was only around 1.5 hours, instead of relying so heavily on the acting (although the actors were so good, they were able to pull it off).
I’m being far too critical and nit-picky. I really enjoyed the film and would encourage others to see it as well. Reading the book beforehand did not help matters! I think I wouldn’t have been as critical if I hadn’t read it. But all in all, it’s quite accurate, using similar lines to the original, and does what it can with the development of the characters in the small amount of space that is provided. And Jennifer Ehle is spectacular! Isn’t that the main thing…?
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