Making the Grades
Recently released on video, this made-for-television movie brought in an incredible sum of money, proving the strong desire the public has for high quality family material. Sarah, Plain And Tall is based on Patricia MacLachlan's children's book of the same name.
The year is 1910. After his wife dies while bearing their second child, Jacob Witting (played by Christopher Walken) a Kansas farmer, places an ad looking for a bride and mother for his children. The respondent is Sarah Wheaton (Glenn Close), a well off New Englander, who agrees to a thirty day trial, but soon finds herself attached to the family.
Sentiment reigns supreme in this film, but in a way that is natural and understanding. The characters have room to grow, especially the father, as he faces the truth of his wife's death, and begins to accommodate Sarah in his heart. Character depth and development is difficult to attain in a movie of this length, but Walken and the script seem up to the task.
The only problem is one that is inherent with all made for television movies: There is a specific structure that is built around commercial breaks. This is even more evident in the video release, as all action stops for a needless fade to black. It is unfortunate that the producer didn't have the foresight to shoot a second take to allow this film to be joined together properly for its video release.
Glenn Close and Christopher Walken are not known as principle "family" actors. In fact, both have played in films that are far from the family genre, an example being Close's role in Fatal Attraction, and Walken's performance in The Deer Hunter. It is wonderful to see these people putting their talents to use to entertain "the other public" that wants to see high quality family entertainment, like Sarah, Plain And Tall.