Alarm belle

After Wild At Heart’s tempestuous Lula, Laura Dern plays another teenage tearaway in her latest release Rambling Rose. Trevor

J ohnstone reports, as a sensitive study of young womanhood hits trouble with the British censors.

‘l was Sandy in Blue Velvet and the blind girl in Mask and for years all I seemed to get were parts for the girl next door.‘ reflects Laura Dern on the eternal mysteries of Hollywood casting, ‘but right before I did Wild at Heart my agent laughed with me that I‘d probably end up as some sort ofsex symbol. Now the roles I‘m getting are much closer to Lula or Rambling Rose, so it‘s kinda come true. But I think I can steer a course between the two points because it‘s always the individual character that I‘m attracted to and not the broad type. I love the parts that don‘t just stick to one stereotype but embody both madonna and whore.‘

As scripted by Calder Willingham from his own autobiographical novel and engagingly portrayed by Dern. this southern rose certainly fits the bill on both counts. The year is 1935 and there‘s a new arrival in the Hillyer household, a waif-like figure who unwittingly changes forever the lives of thirteen-year-old Buddy (Lukas Haas), housewife

and intellectual Mother (Diane Ladd) and gentlemanly hotelier Father (Robert Duvall). Taken on as a housemaid but treated as one of the family. the newcomer‘s insoucient and unself-conscious sensuality gives the whole household a valuable life lesson on the easily blurred distinction between love and sex. As the older Buddy (John Heard) relates in his framing

; narration, ‘a kinder or more good-hearted girl

never lived. Unfortunately. however. she had one fault. one failing: Rose rambled.‘

Willingham‘s screenplay had already been around for twelve years and defeated many an esteemed talent before director Martha Coolidge got involved back in 1986 and immediately sought out Dern for the leading role. Coolidge believes that Willingham‘s reputation in America although feted for his ground-breaking SOs play To End As A Man and respected for his screen work on Paths of Glory and The Graduate has been slightly hindered by his consistent interest in the more troubling areas ofsexual behaviour. ‘It would be very easy to turn the material in Rambling Rose into a male fantasy and alienate women.‘ she says. ‘but the whole piece is really about presenting the audience with emotional truth. It‘s about the discovery of love, a discovery so strong that this young boy is to remember it for the rest ofhis life.‘


It‘s the key scene in the film‘s rite ofpassage which has aroused the most controversy. Upset by her unrequited feelings for Robert Duvall‘s deftly charismatic paterfamilias. Rose seeks comfort and understanding by creeping into the bed of thirteen-year-old protagonist Buddy. Like any teenage boy. he relishes the opportunity to explore the tempting contours of the girl‘s eminently nubile form. but as his hands wander underneath her nightie. he‘s struck by the realisation that Rose isn’t just a mere body but another human being whose need for love and affection matches his own gnawing. barely expressed emotional longings.

As played out in the full version ofthe film I saw previewed. it‘s a very affecting passage. commendably performed by both young actors and crucial in the way it pulls the film round from what might ostensibly appear a familiar exercise in chi-chi Southern nostalgia to a more involving and honest exploration of the awkward verities that everyone faces on the wayward route to maturity. Unfortunately. because the scene involves a minor in a sexual context. the child protection legislation in the UK has forced the censors into substantial statutory cuts. softening the concentration on Buddy actually touching Rose and obviously diminishing the impact of the scene.

Understandably, given that no such objections had been raised for the film‘s American release. the filmmakers are not altogether happy at this kind oftreatment. ‘I don‘t feel that the cuts compromise the film.‘ claims Laura Dern, ‘but it‘s now not the movie we wanted to make. It was my most honest and emotional scene. where this girl opens her heart to the young boy and he opens his heart to her. I think it‘s important that these kind



Rambling Rose: UK child protection laws lorced censors to trim this scene with Laura Dam and Lukas Haas.

\ l R F.

Laura Dern: 'Some sort of sex symbol‘

ofscenes appear in movies. carefully nurtured and protected ofcourse. because learning about being a grown-up. a man or a woman. is precisely about opening up your heart - it‘s about that experience ofintimacy with another person. I understand that this law in Britain exists to protect children on a physical level against pornography and abuse. but every time I get the sensation ofbook burning in any context it scares me.‘

Rambling Rose ( I 5 ) opens at Glasgow (Mean and Edinburgh Cameo on Fri 15 Oct.

TheOList 8.— 21 November NW 17