Soldier's Daughter Never Cries

Overview

James Ivory directed this drama adapted from Kaylie Jones's 1990 autobiographical novel in which the character Bill Willis is based on her father, James Jones, author of From Here to Eternity and A Thin Red Line. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's screenplay about expatriate Americans in Paris during the 1960s/1970s offers a portrait of a normal family as opposed to the dysfunctional families of The Ice Storm and many other 1990s films, seen from the point of view of daughter Channe. Her father is Bill Willis Kris ...
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Overview

James Ivory directed this drama adapted from Kaylie Jones's 1990 autobiographical novel in which the character Bill Willis is based on her father, James Jones, author of From Here to Eternity and A Thin Red Line. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's screenplay about expatriate Americans in Paris during the 1960s/1970s offers a portrait of a normal family as opposed to the dysfunctional families of The Ice Storm and many other 1990s films, seen from the point of view of daughter Channe. Her father is Bill Willis Kris Kristofferson, a successful novelist and WWII veteran who's married to enthusiastic poker-player Marcella Barbara Hershey. Divided like the sections of a novel, the story's first chapter is titled, "Billy," in which French orphan Benoit Samuel Gruen is brought to the Willis household for adoption, while his unmarried biological mother Virginie Ledoyen writes about him in her diary. Six-year-old Benoit has been shipped through so many orphanages and foster homes that he doesn't unpack his suitcase. Benoit's presence prompts the young Channe Luisa Conlon to turn to her protective Portuguese nanny Candida Dominique Blanc. After Benoit becomes acclimated to his new family, he asks that his name be changed to Billy. In the second segment "Francis" a strong friendship develops between Channe Leelee Sobieski and fatherless Francis Fortescue Anthony Roth Costanzo. Obsessed with opera, Francis lives with his expatriate British mother Jane Birkin. The family's French idyll is disrupted when Bill Willis plans a return to the United States because he wants American doctors to treat his bad heart. The closing act "Daddy" takes place in North Carolina during the 1970s as Bill's health worsens, Billy Jesse Bradford grows up, and an alienated Channe seeks acceptance through sex. A bedridden Bill dictates his fiction to Channe, who transcribes tapes and types his manuscript pages. During intimate conversations about boys and sex, Willis helps his daughter find her footing on the path of life. This movie arrived only 14 weeks prior to the release of Terrence Malick's 1998 adaptation of the elder Jones' The Thin Red Line. Shown at 1998 film fests Venice, Toronto.
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Gregory Baird
The filmmaking team of director James Ivory and producer Ishmael Merchant, masters of Edwardian period fare, make an interesting change of pace in this adaptation of Kaylie Jones's semiautobiographical novel, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries. Loosely based on the experiences of her father, James Jones, author of From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line, the story follows more than a decade in the lives of an expatriate American family living in Paris during the 1960s. Kris Kristofferson plays a gruff-but-lovable American novelist married to Barbara Hershey; their only daughter teen acting sensation Leelee Sobieski has trouble adjusting, when her parents adopt a French boy, and later, when the family moves back to the United States in the 1970s. Written for the screen by regular Merchant/Ivory collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries provides little in the way of out-and-out drama. Instead it focuses on the fabric of the family's well-to-do, slightly bohemian lives, subtly exploring their close-knit, deeply affectionate interrelationships. The result is a film that succeeds through its effective performances, creating, out of ordinary moments, a beautifully low-key family portrait.
All Movie Guide
Following the critical disappointments of Jefferson in Paris (1995) and Surviving Picasso (1996), A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (1998) represented a return to form for Merchant and Ivory. The film's material broke new ground for the team; while they had presented character studies of expatriates before, these portraits had never taken place in the 1960s and '70s. The emotional center of the film lies with the unconventional Willis family, introduced to the viewer by daughter Channe (Leelee Sobieski). Kris Kristofferson finds the perfect balance for Billy Willis, a kindly father with a few rough edges. He offers straightforward and practical advice to his children, even about sex; and it is this supportive, honest approach that binds the family together. Both Barbara Hershey, as Marcella, and Jesse Bradford, as Billy, deliver fine performances as the mother and adopted son of the Willis clan. A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries offers a positive portrait of how a family can survive crises and remain healthy; their shared experiences are the emotional glue that binds this somewhat loosely structured film. There are a number of sensitively played scenes, and the natural language of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's screenplay works well for these. The only small glitch in the film involves failing to resolve a plot concerning Candida (Dominique Blanc), the Willis' housekeeper in the first two sections of the film. Bradford and Sobieski's performances would bring them to wider attention, while Merchant and Ivory would return to Victorian literary material in 2000 with The Golden Bowl.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 4/6/1999
  • UPC: 096898382236
  • Original Release: 1998
  • Rating:

  • Source: Universal Studios
  • Aspect Ratio: Priced for Rental Market
  • Presentation: Priced for Rental Market
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Kris Kristofferson Bill Willis
Barbara Hershey Marcella Willis
Leelee Sobieski Channe Willis
Jesse Bradford Billy Willis
Anthony Roth Costanzo Francis Fortescue
Dominique Blanc Candida
Jane Birkin Mrs. Fortescue
Virginie Ledoyen Billy's Mother
Samuel Gruen Benoit
Luisa Conlon Young Channe
Isaach de Bankolé Mamadou
Technical Credits
James Ivory Director, Screenwriter
Jane Barclay Executive Producer
Noëlle Boisson Editor
Paul Bradley Co-producer
Jacques Bufnoir Production Designer
Jean-Marc Fabre Cinematographer
Celestia Fox Casting
Pat Garner Production Designer
Nayeem Hafizka Executive Producer
Sharon Harel Executive Producer
Richard Hawley Executive Producer
Ludovic Henault Sound/Sound Designer
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Screenwriter
Ismail Merchant Producer
Carol Ramsey Costumes/Costume Designer
Richard Robbins Score Composer
Tricia Tomey Casting
Annette Trumel Casting
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