Paradise Road

Glenn Close, Frances McDormand, Pauline Collins, Julianna Margulies, Cate Blanchette

Directed by Bruce Beresford
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 0
Community: star rating
5 0 0
April 11, 1997

Talk about laying it on thick. There is a factual basis to this World War II drama about women prisoners, captured by the Japanese, who form a vocal orchestra to reach the heavens while they grovel in the mud. What should have been an affecting film becomes a rank blend of sentiment and sadism in the hands of Bruce Beresford, the Australian writer and director. Beresford, who can blow hot (Driving Miss Daisy) or cold (Last Dance), strikes a sour note throughout.

Glenn Close, Frances McDormand, Pauline Collins, Julianna Margulies and Jennifer Ehle are just a few of the actress luminaries gathered to play the European, Australian and American women who fled Singapore after its occupation only to find their ship bombed and their rights ignored as the Japanese herd them into camps. Those women who choose to sleep with Japanese officers are billeted in style; those who don't must suffer gross indignities.

It's Close's and Collins' characters who come up with the idea for a vocal orchestra. No pop stuff, either — real classical pieces. The Japanese resist at first, cracking their gun butts into female jaws and midriffs, and devising tortures that involve beating, burning, impaling and beheading. Did such tortures exist? Yes. Did Beresford have to film them with such lip-smacking attention to brutal, race-baiting detail? I don't think so. Everything in this film feels overdone, from Close's noble suffering to McDormand's accent and bearing as a German doctor. Beresford locks the brilliant Best Actress Oscar winner (for Fargo) in a caricature out of Hogan's Heroes. Only Ehle, the lovely star of TV's Pride and Prejudice, finds the grace for restraint. The singing of the choir is gorgeous, but even here Beresford gooses our reactions, cutting to shots of hardened guards weeping. Didn't this cornball propaganda go out with wartime films like So Proudly We Hail!? It should have.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Bird on a Wire”

    Leonard Cohen | 1969

    While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

    More Song Stories entries »