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Patricia Charbonneau, Audra Lindley, Denise Crosby, Dean Butler. Gwen Welles, Jeffrey Tambor Helen Shaver , Donna Deitch    R (Restricted)   DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This One Started It All.. Jan. 21 2004
Before Ellen, kd lang, and Chastity Bono came out, there was this Lesbian genre classic, and classily done, I might add.
The storyline was unique to movies at the time it was filmed, but the story is not. Anyone who has been in love with a supposed "straight" person, knows how real this movie can seem. The flirtation, the backing away, the come-hither looks, and finally the conquest all will bring back good (and painful) memories. In my opinion, the lesbian love scene between the two female leads is still the best yet on film - it sizzles without being too graphic.
I'm giving it only 4 stars because the acting is a little stilted at times (mostly from the star Patricia Charbonneau and her former on-screen love interest Dean Butler). If you can overlook that, and see the movie for what it was (lesbian/gay history) and what it is today (a great love story), you will enjoy it. The clothes, music, sets, (and the hair-dos!) are great and correct for the period.
Sit back, enjoy, and make sure your girlfriend is watching with you!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not as magical as the book Sept. 26 2003
The trouble is, this film is too close to Jane Rule's gorgeous novel to separate itself, yet it cannot hope to convey the magic and subtleties painted by Jane Rule whose characters are so well-defined; whose sense of timing and space is impeccable and who develops the tensions (slight and not-so-slight) between these women by way of their perceptions (of each other and their own situations). It is one of the tenderest love stories I have read and yet it is neither unduly emotional nor sentimental.
The scene by the lake (Chapter 5), for instance, where Evelyn (Vivian in the film) utters that she lives in a desert of the heart, can hardly have the same impact on film where we depend on a visual interpretation of events rather than a disclosure of her thoughts. It is where Evelyn realises she's losing a battle; her morality is about to be jolted. She clings to familiar things, the drive through the storm and so on, in the hope that the problem will go away while knowing that it won't. At the same time Ann (Cay in the film) has an instinct for knowing when not to press herself further while never quite withdrawing. The film does not capture these subtleties.
For all that, it is a beautiful, sensitive film in its own right, spoiled by an ending that might have been better if it followed the book. In almost the last line, far from Vivian (Evelyn) departing forever, she opts to stay "for an indefinite period of time". Until that moment one is on the edge of one's seat and somehow the film's almost certain "goodbye" comes as a cop-out; as if the women might have been infatuated; Vivian frightened of discovering this new aspect of her sexuality but surrendering to a daring experiment rather than being in love as the book conveys and realising at the last instant that goodbye isn't possible at that moment.
The sex scene is inconsequential by the way but tastefully done for those who like such cliches.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Still The One June 26 2003
By A Customer
This lovely, bittersweet movie knocked my socks off when I saw it back in the day, and the DVD offered me another opportunity to relive the romance. It's not the most well-made movie -- the fact that it got made at all, considering the costs to the independent film maker, is a miracle. But it is peopled with believable, sympathetic characters and it is, for the most part, beautifully acted. The soundtrack is fabulous, and the CD is long overdue. The cinematography artfully features the haunting southwestern landscape, contrasting it with the period-perfect seediness of 1950's Reno.
Desert Hearts is a lesbian love story, but also a story about the importance of many types of relationships between women: mother and daughter, friend and confidant. I've seen almost all the lesbian flicks that have been produced over the years, and very few of them have this one's staying power. It offers a deeply romantic and heartfelt view of lesbian love in the old-fashioned Hollywood mold, something we rarely see in the movies. The impeccable use of music is heard in the final scene, as Ella Fitzgerald croons "I Wished On The Moon." I can't imagine any person who has every loved or longed for love, whether they're gay, straight or in between, not being moved by the promise, longing and mystery expressed in that last scene.
Desert Hearts has wit, humor, pathos, a fascinating and unusual milieu, compelling leading ladies and delicious secondary roles, great music and scenery, and oh yes, some exceptionally erotic and realistic sex between two beautiful women.
What's not to like?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Opposites attract in this wonderful love story May 22 2003
"Desert Hearts," directed by Donna Deitch, opens in Reno, Nevada in 1959. The film, which is based on a novel by Jane Rule, tells the story of Vivian (played by Helen Shaver), a prim-and-proper college professor who has come to Nevada to get a divorce. There she meets Cay (Patricia Charbonneau), a lusty, free-spirited casino worker. The relationship between these two beautiful women is the focus of the film.
"Desert Hearts" is a wonderful film. It's very erotic, tender, and moving. The women's story is complemented by excellent production values and effective use of period music. The performances are superb all around. The leads are backed by a great supporting cast; Audra Lindley is particularly good in a zesty, touching performance as Cay's stepmother. But it's the powerful chemistry between Shaver and Charbonneau which ultimately drives the film. Every scene between them is one to be savored.
The DVD version of the film includes a fascinating feature-length commentary track by director Deitch. She discusses the original novel, her own relationship with novelist Rule, the casting process, the music of the film, key scenes, and much more. Particularly fascinating is the window she offers into the financial realities of independent filmmaking.
"Desert Hearts" is about romantic love between two women. It's also about a mother-daughter relationship and about friendship between women. The beautiful scenes of the land and horses as well as the casino scenes give added appeal to the story of these interconnected relationships. I highly recommend this enjoyable and touching film.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Goodness
Desert Hearts the movie is a close version of the book with some slight variation. The movie is as tasty as the book!
Published 14 months ago by Beth
4.0 out of 5 stars A woman's love is a priceless enlightenment, undeniably superior over...
A woman's love is a priceless enlightenment, undeniably superior over the other kind of love, for its endurance, strength and wisdom. Read more
Published on July 30 2009 by Julien Kujo
4.0 out of 5 stars I Liked Jane Rule's Novel MUCH Better, But . . .
This film contains what may well be the most powerful & well-done love scene I have ever seen on film. Read more
Published on June 17 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars love story
This movie was the first lesbain movie I truly fell in love with. I felt my self in the movie through each sceen. Read more
Published on April 25 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars can't miss
This is a wonderful movie of two gorgeous women who make love and one drops her water onto the other while they're at it. I watch that part over and over. And I'm a girl.
Published on Feb. 2 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars an upbeat classic
quite different from the fine novel upon which it is based, and yet good in its own right. sweet, witty, old fashioned. Read more
Published on Nov. 28 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Passionate
The storyline and characters are somewhat interesting, though not as interesting as the explosive lesbian love scene near the end of the film! Read more
Published on Oct. 4 2003 by axpress
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Little Sex
If you are looking for a good movie to watch, read the other reviews and skip this one. If you are looking for some good softcore, this is not it. There is only one sex scene. Read more
Published on Sept. 4 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Cliche ridden, but worthwhile
Desert Hearts is a competent film, but its marred by stereotypical characters and a tendency toward melodrama. Read more
Published on May 5 2003 by Garry Messick
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